Our homeschool feels like it is completely reinventing itself. Those of you that homeschool understand how not one single homeschool day is the same, but this feels like a complete remodel to me for some reason. Ceesa is getting ready to graduate with her bachelor’s in history with a minor in English in a few weeks and Jo-Jo is working on a wildlife conservation degree and mostly doing college course work and some work at home for her senior year. The girls were such a focus for me during their high school years that now, I feel like the boys get to absorb my attention, whether they want it or not.
**While this post is a recap of what we did this fall for homeschool and it is chalked full of ideas for schooling, those of you that don't homeschool can check out our adventure section that has tons of ideas for families!
Back to School Kick-Off
The boys are at the age that we can go out adventuring and have great conversations and live this full life together in new ways. To kick off back to school, we went to a lego event at a local historic home and garden. Elaborate lego creations were set up in the house, welcome center, and gardens. Using the map, we went around the grounds locating each lego creation. We took a picnic lunch and enjoyed the grounds.
First Day of School
We had our first day of school on Labor Day. It is when we’ve always started. In the past, it was because I had little ones underfoot and Poppa would be home. With him managing the younger children, we could have a smooth opening day. And now, it is just our tradition to start on the holiday. We always make sure to take a first day of school picture of each of the kids, too!
Fall Adventure and Vacation
Mid-September, we packed up and went camping. We took some school work; mostly readings, loaded the camper and were off. That makes it sound easy, but believe me it is quite the process preparing food for 6 and packing the camper with all our necessities. We glamp, so it is not the roughing it, bare minimum. It’s a mini-home to go.
We spent some time every day field tripping it. This is just one of my many favorite things about homeschooling. The ability to go to places and see and do things, real things, and have real experiences. I taught for 5 years before Ceesa was born and there is truly a difference between a classroom and the world. And this week of camping is the best. A whole week of getting out and adventuring!
We visited an alpaca farm, a wildlife reserve, historic houses with underground railroad history, and an art museum. The boys played some frisbee golf.
Fun Fall Field Trips and Activities
We had some absolutely perfect days this term in September and a few in October. You know the ones, those perfect, sunny, fall days when it is not too hot or cold.
With the exception of fall foreboding winter, the season is one of my favorites. We had lots and lots of adventures. At the beginning of October after many adventures, Wheel looked at me and said, “I love fall.” "Me too, buddy, me too." If you are looking for some fall adventures, you can see our list of Autumn Adventures: Things to do in the Fall.
Early in September we went apple picking at an apple orchard. We gathered a half-bushel and then got some local honey and apple cider to take home. Over the course of a few weeks, we used up the apples. We made apple chips and apple lattes.
About mid-October, we went to a pumpkin farm and did a corn maze, potato slinging, picked pumpkins, and the kids had some treats. From then on, it was all about pumpkins! We made pumpkin pie and pumpkin muffins, so many pumpkin muffins! (I was testing out recipes that were AIP friendly!)
Over the course of the semester, we went on a sternwheeler ride, checked out a spy program, went to an art museum, went to a planetarium, and visited a science museum.
Other fall activities were the work day at the camp I facilitate, the Fall Ball, going to high school football games, going hiking, and the boys played flag football for a league.
Fall Outdoor Day
Inspired by A Year of Forest School, we started having outdoor days. Last winter, was our first. We chose a day that was really nice for winter. We played games, lit a fire, made charcoal pencils and then drew with them. We had mulled juice and fire bread. It was such a great day that we decided we would start doing them throughout the seasons starting with this fall!
First off the boys gathered the materials to start a fire. For handicraft last year, we spent some time learning how to start fires. The boys decided on a log cabin model and it wasn't long until we had a roaring blaze going.
The fire is sort of a necessity for the outdoor days because we cook over it! We made baked apples!
While the coals were getting hot, we did some leaf sewing. Everyone chose how they wanted to sew. I made a string of leaves to hang inside. Li attempted sewing his initials and Wheel sewed some together.
Next up was den building. The book suggested that you build with sticks and branches; however, we have several dens built already in the woods in that manner. Instead, we got some blankets from inside and constructed a den with those. We got a pile of books and sat inside all snuggled up together and read them.
Technically, the outdoor day would be finished then, but we decided to make an evening of it and took dinner down to the fire and ate el fresco.
2023-2024 Basic Curriculum
For those of you that have been around for a while, you know that we use mostly a Charolotte Mason style of homeschooling. We trend toward the subjects that Miss Mason used in her schools. For most of our reading suggestions and some of the curriculum, we turn to AmblesideOnline. This year for Jo-Jo, I’ve tailored her curriculum to be specific for her. So many of her classes are on campus that we are just doing some basics at home. Her homeschool schedule is slim and she really does everything independently, so I will just hand her the resources and a checklist and send her on her way. This will be a busy year with her applying for scholarships and grants, in addition to participating in science fairs and programs across the state. I want it to be as full and enjoyable as possible without putting her on overload. In addition to some of the recommendations for year 12 from AO, she’s been working on Khan Academy’s Financial Literacy and Personal Finance curriculum.
We choose 3 of the suggested folk songs for the year. We are using 2 of the recommended composers, but we will be veering from the curriculum some and studying Stephen Simon. The girls and I did a study on him before Wheel was born and enjoyed it, so I thought I would put it on repeat for the boys. We have the CD’s for a few of these programs, but I have several through their downloaded audio. We will be listening to Casey at the Bat, The Nutcracker, Peter and the Wolf, Mike Mulligan/Steam Shovel, Story of Swan Lake, and Tortoise and the Hare. We generally pick 8 of the 12 hymns provided on AO’s Hymn page. I add in a Christmas hymn for an additional ninth. Occasionally, I’ll switch one out for one that we sing at church that we don’t know well.
Science Experiments & Readings
This year when I was deciding what experiments I wanted to do with the boys, I came across the experiment suggestions on the National PTA site. We chose several of them this term to work on from the STEM at Home Kits and Learn at Home Activities sections of the websites. In addition to the activities, we read over the materials provided and watched any of the videos with active links. Years ago when the girls were younger, we implemented science notebooks, and the boys write down their experiments in their notebooks, too.
The experiments we included:
- Copper Tape Experiment
- Whale Blubber
3. Mini-golf course
4. Tide pool
6. Lemon juice drawing
7. Zipline car trolley
8. Design a playground
9. Creature catcher & creatures
10. Elephant Toothpaste
For handicraft inspiration, I use the Nature Craft books, we work on Junior Ranger booklets, and we do Contenders of the Faith activities. For the fall term, we choose to make stretchers in the woods with found materials and a blanket. We made bows and arrows by whittling sticks and attaching string, coil pots, and fat lamps with oil and a wick.
For math this year, Wheel is doing Math Mammoth (all of the kids have used this up to Maria's Math Mammoth Pre-Algebra). Li is using Khan Academy's Algebra program this year. He is visual and computer oriented, so this seemed the best option for him. At his age, the girls used Jacob's Algebra and Geometry with the instructional videos with great success. We recommend it for the college bound. Jo-Jo ended up with 105 for her overall class grade for College Algebra and Ceesa (after also taking the ACT prep math section online) got her highest score on the ACT in math and maths are her least favorite subject.
For nature study, we use the Handbook of Nature Study, Junior Ranger booklets, various nature books, & Contenders of the Faith activities. What we study is from a hodge podge of resources. Sometimes when we find something interesting that's what we study and I look for resources on the fly. For the fall, we did a variety of things.
We found sit spots, sitting quietly to observe what was around us. We took nature walks and hunted for nature finds to share.
We had lots of nature interactions. After seeing various animals, insects, and a snake, we studied them. We took some time to study moths, which inspired a project on camouflage. We learned more about ground hogs, box turtles, and the ring-necked snake. We did an in-depth study on plants by making sketches, reading poems, planting seeds, reading the plant section in The Wonders of Nature, and earning the pin for plants in the Contenders book.
Jo-Jo volunteers for the state department of nature resources by doing a stream study 3 times a year. The last one she completed in the fall and the boys went with us. They spent the morning catching crawdads and minnows, while Jo-Jo and I hunted down water critters to document and count.
We read lots of poems about fall, leaves, and the weather. Some of these we wrote in our notebooks. We did some fall scene sketches, too.
Art & Artist
We use the AO artist schedule for our artist studies. I always get 4x6 prints made and the boys keep them in a photo album with the artist's name, date, title, and other relevant bits of information. For art, we use a variety of resources. Some projects are inspired from online sources and others from books we've collected over the years.
En plain air sketches
Ax drawing from Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools: Classes 1 to 8
Plutarch & Shakespeare
We follow the Plutarch schedule and Shakespeare play suggestions from AmblesideOnline. AO has excellent guides to go along with Plutarch that we like to use.
Living skills vary by season, but include things like homemaking and chores. This is more of a daily what we're doing to take care of the home and each other activity: helping with meals, cleaning bedrooms, doing dishes, putting laundry away, lawn and garden care, stacking firewood, etc.
Over the years, we've found it easiest to follow the kids lead with physical education and exercise. We are fairly active, so the kids have naturally sought out activities that they enjoy. Ceesa took up archery and dance. Ella took up cardio punching and kickboxing. The boys love whatever sport is on and spend lots of time practicing. Our physical education is a whole range of organized and spontaneous outdoor and indoor activities; including, but not limited to, football, baseball, swimming, basketball, biking, hiking, walking, soccer, hockey, golf, lawn games, frisbee golf, and tennis.
Exams and Fall Semester Celebration
At the end of each term, we take some time to reflect and refresh. The kids take exams and do some light reading and then we reserve the afternoons for some fun. You can see what our exams and daily exam week schedule looks like by clicking the link.
What curriculum or resources do you love? What are your favorite fall homeschool activities? We’d love to hear about some of your favorite places to camp or field trips you take! We are always looking for new places to see and things to do. Tell us about them in the comments below!