Se7en Things That Are Really Working For School This Year…

There are things about school this year that are going so well even I can’t believe it!!! Normally by half way through the year I feel a little bit like we are losing track, always a little bit off the pace. This year I made a mental effort to stop worrying about what “everyone else” was doing and to concentrate on what we wanted to do for school. Not everything has to be perfect, we are getting a flavor of the world. We don’t have to have preplanned packages or perfect outings lined up every other day of the week. This year I decided to take the things that we want to do for school, that often get neglected, you know those topics that make you feel like you are losing traction and I am concentrating on getting them done.


  1. The Story of the World: We added the activity books to our curriculum… Oh they are so brilliant and bring the story alive!!! Every chapter has a mapping exercise, a couple of comprehension questions, some book suggestions and coloring pages. But the fun is in the projects and I don’t have to think them up!!! My grade 6 student is loving them to bits and his history has been brought alive for all of us. History isn’t just a story it is a lifestyle!!! Suddenly we have a whole team of archaeologists excavating in the garden and strange ingredients added to the shopping list for ancient bites to eat. I have used the materials for all our grades history, not just the grades that are reading the story of the world… we grabbed some viking fun and ancient egyptians for my lower grades as well. These books are simply brilliant!!!
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  3. Geography Songs: Sing Around the World: 33 Fun Songs, Lyrics, Landmarks, Maps (Larry Troxel, Kathy Troxel): I know everybody loves them, every body blogs about them… And I know they are good. Well we don’t go driving enough for me to remember to play them in the car and we usually start the year enthusiastically and color in about three pages and then forget about it. Believe it or not coloring is just not big around here!!! But I added a new dimension: Smart Kids Picture Atlas (Roger Priddy) is brilliant, it has a couple of paragraphs about each country in the world. Interesting facts, bright colorful pictures, how to say hello in the local language… A couple of my kids are doing Geography Songs this year: I read about a country, they find it on their map and color it, then we greet each other and move on to the next one. It has really been fun. And there has been no quitting!!!
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  5. Science Lab Partners: My kids, like most kids, love science experiments… And I am guessing that like most mothers I just don’t get round to doing them… I can’t always want to!!! Even with the brilliant science kits we use, I still can’t be bothered to scurry around looking for bits and pieces that we need, I can easily forget to buy a soda bottle for weeks at a time. I used to have an intensive week of science every couple of weeks and catch up… but this year we are schooling straight through without a break… So what to do about science? Well I teamed my kids up with a lab partner and we are winning. They take turns, the older kids do a week or two and then the younger guys. And one week they do a section of their science experiments and the next week they do their partners science… So they get to do double science and my kids think that’s a win, win!!! There is a hidden reward here… they are learning to work together and it isn’t always easy!!! They are learning to battle through their differences in order to get the experiment done. Yup, they are learning a whole lot more than science – a definite Win, Win!!!
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  7. Poetry: Now we love and adore poetry, it is one of our favorite school topics… but as I said in our previous post on scheduling, if it isn’t scheduled everyday then we just don’t get round to it. But Thursday is my laundry, mental health, take a break from the world day… and nothing is as good for mental health as the great outdoors. So everyone knows that on Thursdays I will head outdoors and read their week’s poetry whatever the weather… it is a weekly event: rain or shine, blizzard or heatwave… out we go and find a spot in the garden for a poetry reading session… we all look forward to it. Our favorite poetry book this year is definitely poems by James Stevenson… fun, fun, visual poems from a poet with a very different view of the world!!!
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  9. Music Appreciation: I have always put off learning about famous musicians because I thought we needed a special program or I might miss something. Turns out that anything I do is better than nothing. So on Mondays which are always a particularly bad day for getting going we have been listening to a new peace of music or a new musician and sometimes we read about it and sometimes we just listen and have it in the background for the morning’s school. It occurs to me that there are certain pieces of music that my kids should know, Vivaldi’s for Seasons and Peter and the Wolf… to name a few… think about it and more than a few pieces come to mind. Really I don’t need a special program, I just need to hit the play button. If you are looking for more and sometimes I am, then head straight over to Classics for Kids… They have podcasts that we listen to as well as great printables, it really is a fabulous site.
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  11. Spelling: I will tell you a secret about spelling, if your kids read a lot they will learn to spell. My first child is called “Spellcheck” for a reason, he could always spell anything. I cannot say the same for his siblings… and for some of them you have never seen such appalling spellers in your life!!! But after many years they do start to just get it… I know you don’t believe it but it is true!!! That being said we use spelling power and we all love it. One book for everyone, and everyone is at their own level. Lots of fun ways for them to practice their skills and they never have to learn more than three words on a given day… And because everyone is doing the same program we can do it together and they ask for it, beg for it!!! Nothing like a bit of competition to see who can get fewer errors in their list for the week.
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  13. Mapwork and Timelines: There is only one way to do this… on the day. Which is why it is a weak point and falls by the way!!! I am always so impressed with homeschool classrooms with busy annotated maps on the walls. As I do the reading for history my kids write a few notes in their history journal and pop their sticker in with the notes. As for map work… I was trying to fill it all in on a blank wipeable map… it wasn’t working!!! Every time someone wanted to write on their map they would smear something else and not only was it hard to remember to do it, but it was causing wild, frustrated gnashing of teeth. So I bought extra paper maps for the geography song book from Sonlight ($3. well spent) and we are making an “Atlas” on a map as we go for each child and this map will just slide into their journal at the end of the year when we file it. So far it is working and dare I say becoming a habit. We will have to see if we can sustain it!!!
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  15. School Starts and Ends: The hardest part for me is starting… I really, really want to get up in the morning and potter around on the internet for an undisclosed period of time, and it always leads to disaster!!! It takes all my self-control to bypass my laptop and to get things going. But the rewards are great, if we start then we tend to finish and there is plenty of time for me to potter on the internet in the afternoon. So for me more than anyone else… School first. It works, I know it and once I have begun I love it.

    I always, always intend to finish school by lunchtime and very often we don’t. But this year I stopped answering questions after lunch. If a book isn’t finished and they haven’t shown it to me it just goes back on the shelf and start fresh the next day. Really I turn a blind eye!!! After a whole morning of school a page of anything can take hours to achieve and first thing in the morning when you are fresh it is so easy!!!


    The father person inspired this when he returned home from the office at the end of the day, week after week, to find us still at the kitchen table with piles of books. Madness – he declared. “Finish by lunch and you Pass.” Don’t finish by lunch that’s a Fail.” It is enough motivation for my kids to know that they are passing or failing. Anyone who has passed by the end of the week and has shown me their assignments done, gets Friday night screen time.

    Just because my kids are home schooled doesn’t mean they can’t get a taste of failure, once in a while. I am not talking about misunderstood work or work that needs help. I am talking about your regular “I am dawdling, reading half a book, having a quick snack and so on kind of work. When we were at school and we didn’t complete something, the teacher never sat with us until dinner time and then waited the whole of the next day or three to get the assignment done. If it wasn’t done we failed… and I tell you it didn’t happen too often!!! Many of my students do a mad scrabble to finish on their own in the afternoon, particularly on a Friday afternoon. We all know the work can be done!!! They are rewarded for finishing timeously and that has been enough of a pull for most of them to make every effort to finish. It has really helped them to know that enough is enough for the day, really. I think we all look forward to our free afternoons and lounging around with library books and frantic play!!!

That’s us… Almost halfway through the school year and going surprisingly strong!!! Who knew how many topics on the good intention list could actually make it onto the done list!!!

14 Replies to “Se7en Things That Are Really Working For School This Year…”

  1. You have inspired me to pull out the History of the World activity book. One of my children loves history but we haven’t actually used the activity book.
    Do your older children work for the same length of time as the little ones? Your learning through living in the afternoon sounds wonderful.

  2. Hi Sarah, Even if you don’t follow the Activity Book chapter by chapter I find it just gives me a couple of ideas if I skim through it the night before… Yes we all pretty much take the same length of time to do school. Keep in mind that an hour of seat work for grade 1 is not nearly the same sort of hour as a grade six student. The older kids are far more efficient and focused with their work. For them to write a good paragraph on their history reading takes just as long as for a grade 1 student to draw a picture of what I have read and write two sentences!!! An hour of math for my older kids as they race through mental math is not the same as an hour of grade 1 math, which might mean playing a game or jumping up and down the steps counting in two’s… it still takes about an hour though. Our afternoons have opened up and they have been great… It really has helped us to school without break because my kids have a couple of hours each day to peruse their hearts desire!!! Hope you are having a good week!!!

  3. hi seven,
    i hardly ever leave a comment (sorry – but i always intend to…) but this post was just wonderful!
    i love your blog, i visit every day and i’m always so inspired. but sometimes i can’t help but feel like a failure. i have only 4 kids and seeing what you manage to do with eight makes me wonder if you are superwoman ;).pi
    thanks for such a reality- check! it’s nice to see that even you don’t do it all and it’s such a motivating post to think about what’s important to us!!

  4. After reading this post, I remembered Mark Twain’s saying, “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.” I guess the list that you provided doesn’t only focus on the usual classroom activities. It’s really wonderful to see that there are other things that kids can do inside the class.

  5. fantastic! These are so inspirational! I struggle in ALL these areas. There is HOPE for me 🙂 I have two questions tho…
    1) how do you do spelling power with each having their own book? Do you mean own manual? And do you do it with them or do they test each other?

    2) the geography map-atlas thing. I am TERRIBLE at the mapwork things that we do. I’m curious to know how your system works. I’m a bit doff and didn’t follow your explanation too well. Could you re-explain for the slightly more challenged ones, like me 🙂 I’m wondering what you mean by making an atlas with the geography song sheets. Do each of the kids colour/work with the Sonlight sheets together with the geography song sheets? Or are you using the geography song sheets with each child and just having each child create their own “atlas” as they add their current year’s sheet to the next and the next?

    Thanks! You’re a star!

  6. Hi Daniela, I am so glad to hear that I have placed myself “in perspective” for you!!! I definitely don’t do it all and there are so many bits and pieces that fall by the way… This is my year to gather them up and either manage them or discard them. It is funny how many things that I thought we wouldn’t get round to we have gotten round to. Anyway, thank you so much for commenting, I am so glad to inspire you and hope you have a fun weekend!!!

  7. Hay “Magnet Printing,” Thanks of the quote… We have had great fun stretching our classroom to fit in all the things we want to learn. Thanks for stopping by!!!

  8. Hi Taryn, There is hope… Things can get done even when we are so reluctant to get around to them!!! Firstly for spelling: I mean that we use one manual for everyone. I used to use the special blank spelling power books but to be honest we get around to it much more when we just use our daily journals and it is one less book to try and jam on the shelf. So we use the manual and I have marked where everyone is with a different color post it note and I ask each of them their spelling for the week… and I select randomly a fun way for them to learn their three new words for the week. Always on a Monday, I don’t do it every day by any means… but I do keep their mis-spelt words in my head and ask them randomly in the week.
    And maps… we have had a bit of a map focus this year and it has been fun, really. I always have this HUGE ideas of what we should do and then I do nothing, so this year I just tried to do something!!! I have three doing their geography songs and they do their coloring in the geography song workbook. For their regular school mapping of where a book takes place or an historical event/route we have been using the large paper maps you can buy as extra’s from Sonlight as part of the geography songs kit. And filling them in as they go. They just work better for us than then “wipe it clean” maps that cause my kids endless stress and serious gnashing of teeth not to mention wailing when they cannot find their special markers!!! I have a dream of a huge wall map filled with pins and and comments and factoids but lets be honest: not an inch of wall space!!! And for five/six scholars it would have to be some map!!! Now we can just build up a collection of “grade” maps for each child and it is working for us!!!
    I could probably blog a whole post for each of these topics… just gently kick me to remind me to post school things more often… I just forget to blog about what we are living!!! Have a great weekend!!!

  9. It’s a great post! The thing I love the most was your honesty at how *you* could get in the way of your own best intentions. I feel like that EVERY year, and I always deem to do better. . .but something always sets it askew. (Probably me!)

  10. Oh Christine, I think my inability to “rise and shine” is the one reason my kids’ “get up and go” gets up and goes right out of the door!!! Hope you have a great week… that kitchen of yours is going to be fabulous… patience!!! Have a great weekend!!!

  11. Thanks! I appreciate this blog soo much and all you do! Thanks for clearing up those things in my fizzled brain! We start SP on Monday. Hoping it’ll work well. Love the map idea. I’ve been wanting to photocopy my current copy. Need to find out if that’s legal or not. Otherwise I’ll be putting a few extra dollars on my order too! 🙂

  12. Hi Se7en! I would like to know if “The story of the world” activity books are included in the sonlight curriculum?

  13. Hi Taryn, It was a pleasure answering your questions – glad to help!!! Hope you all have a great week of school!!!

  14. Hi Kim, No Sonlight does not carry the activity books, we got ours from Amazon… Thanks for asking and have a great day!!!

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