Se7en At School: What Are We Are Learning This Year…

We haven’t fallen off the blogging bus, so to speak… we are back in school and as we all struggle and strain under the new constraints of school days, as opposed to long lazy days… my days are suddenly incredibly busy and for a couple of weeks their will be no sneaking off and quietly writing a blog post while everyone is busy elsewhere. We will adjust and our students will discover what I do and don’t expect of them, they will push the boundaries – just to check if I really meant them to do something and I have to keep an unusually vigilant eye on what is actually getting done as opposed to what they say is getting done. Soon enough we will adjust and find our rhythm… we always do. There is just the initial prickly time, where we all see what we can and can’t get away with.


This post is really for all those folk that want to be a fly on the wall and see exactly what our kids are studying for school this year. Most of our days have a very particular rhythm… rise and shine, breakfast and reading and family school around the kitchen table. Then if it is during school time everyone heads for their own core and if we aren’t on an official school day then folk tend to their own projects. At lunchtime we meet around the table to read some more and after lunch we rest and read for a while (depending on just how long I need). Later in the afternoon the kids play and I am available to spend time helping with any teens that still requires some help in the afternoon. Then the usual end of the day chores and an amble before supper and bed.


Family School

This is the heart of our school and takes an hour or two each morning. We cover a little bible reading together. We may do creative writing or drawing. We will do art together… We are usually reading a series of books as a family… and I will pick something from the library and work through it. Books like the Scout handbook are met with a lot of approval (!) and we are reading a fabulous history book together that is just quite unbelievable and deserves it’s own post. We fit any art or creative writing/journaling. During this time we will learn some local skills… South African history, geography and right now we are discovering map work and loving it. My go-to resource for these books is the library, I look specifically for books that will appeal to my hands on students and books that will appeal to my word lovers. I have also introduced a Mental Math challenge and a grammar challenge to this part of school. I thought I would meet all sorts of resistance, but they are actually enjoying it… it appeals to their competitive edge. Honestly, with a mindful exercise like mental math, it has nothing to do with age as to who will be the champion and all to do with who is paying the most attention. My older kids have some very eager competitors chomping at their heels.


One on One Meetings

From Family School we move on to our Sonlight Schooling and this is really all about books. We are avid Sonlighters… always have been. They each have a pile of reading to get through each day and pretty much wander through their instructors guides. I know some folks have this idea of homeschooling, that you spend hours of one-on-one time with your kids, this might be true for some but for us, the truth of the matter is that most of my kids don’t want to have me hanging around their work… firstly I am far to full of ideas of things they could add, or might want to do and secondly this is their path to discovery and they are actually enjoying the adventure themselves.

That being said… I do spend at least half an hour and often an hour with each child, depending on their needs on a given school day. Little folk tend to wake up earliest and when they are up, then I do all their school reading to them for the day… their bible, history and science books as well as any read-alouds are pretty much conquered before breakfast. I usually start with the smallest scholar and working up through the ranks. The older children need to tackle their work without me so that by the time I spend time with them they have something to show me.

All my kids have one or two aspects of school that they will not tackle on their own and would like me to sit alongside them. Usually it is math, in which case I check and admire any good work they have done and enquire (though I never ever get a response) regarding the work they promised, but haven’t done. It is just not the most loved subject around here… but they find their way through it: Singapore and in the lowest grades they do a but of Miquon as well. The middle grades do “Key to…” math with their Singapore… we love it, the books are fast and snappy and change.Usually they are not stuck they just want me alongside them. So I sit with them and check that they understand what is required of them in the next few exercises and leave them to it. The other section of work they often want help with is language arts. Any creative writing project that is listed in their language arts instructor’s guide requires time and attention. They do not love it and it shows: for example write a friendly letter, or write a comparative essay. These assignments are simply there to teach them how to write a particular form of writing and they are not as “creative” as one might think. To be honest we treat it as a bit of mental exercise and they do do their best creative writing during family school.


Our Se7en+1 School Goals

This may sound lofty and airy-fairy, but I am far more concerned that my children learn and grow and develop towards the person they will eventually grow up to be, over the period of the school year than they tick off every box in their Instructor’s Guide. I don’t expect thirty million book reports and I am far more interested in our kids pursuing matters of the heart and things that intrigue them and inspire them to learn more. To this end I have goals for our Sonlight years and I have written about them before as well.


  1. Hood #1 (16) – Two Years-ish from the End:
  2. Core 300 – 20th Century World History; Science 350 – Chemistry; British Literature (over two years); Psychology; French.

    The end is actually in sight, and I cannot believe it… while he is still trying new things and has no idea what he wants to do after school… the focus has become one of creating a great looking portfolio. Finally all the years of practising presentation are coming into their own. He is also starting to work outside of home and volunteer and has to get used to keeping school deadlines and up to date with a college course or two, all the while being busy with real life responsibilities and tasks… way beyond the level of domestic chores. Busy, interesting times and the work is pretty relentless, but lots of new and different things to look forward too.


  3. Hood #2 (14) – Middle High School:
  4. Core 100 – American History; Science 150 – Physical Science; British Literature (over two years); Economics; French.

    This is a student that likes to rush on, the goal is to try lots of new things – he loves anything to do with electronics and computers… and recently discovered online courses. We may have lost him!!! There will be a lot more putting work on actual paper, and following through and finishing assignments that have been begun. The thinking is that while he is welcome to fly and follow his heart, he still has to be able to demonstrate what he is learning along the way. So we are going to figure out ways for him to present the work he is doing in an acceptable way.


  5. Hood #3 – Junior High School:
  6. Core G – World History Part 1; Science G – Geology, Physics and Origins.

    This is a student that likes to tick all the boxes and announce done… but at this stage I am requiring a little more depth. So a book may be read and the box ticked… but what is to be learnt from it… is their a spark of a project, is there a something that the reading inspires – a new hobby to try or a pastime to explore. This is a child that loves and adores cooking and food and we are thinking about expanding horizons with these courses. In the meantime we have plenty of cookbooks that nobody will mind if they are cooked through… this may be a good year for feasting.


  7. Hood #4 – Upper Primary:
  8. Core E: Introduction to American History – Part 2; Science E: Electricity, Magnetism and Astronomy.

    This is a hands on learner if ever there was one. I really need to introduce tons of hands on projects and scatter books with potential projects in his path. He is not the biggest reader in the world and while he loves dipping into non-fiction for a couple of facts… this is the year I would like to see him getting into reading more fiction. He loves a good story and has listened to hours and hours of audio books so I am not concerned about cultural literacy, but rather I would like him to discover the joy of reading for it’s own sake.


  9. Hood #5 – Primary:
  10. Core D: Introduction to American History – Part 1; Science D: Biology; Taxonomy and Human Anatomy.

    Well this is a student that loves what everyone else is doing and likes to tag along on a number of projects that his siblings are doing. Because of this he is used to lots of guidance and endless advice (!), but he is actually really capable at anything he tries. I would really like for him to discover projects of his own and that will require rather more strewing on my part. Otherwise he is getting the hang of reading and this is the year that he will most likely dive into fat chapter books and get lost in the reading of them. This is also the year that he will discover “finding things” in a major way… words in a dictionary, places in a atlas and so on.


  11. Hood #6 – Junior Primary:
  12. Core B: Introduction to World History – Part 1; Science B: Animals, Astronomy and Physics.

    While this little one knows how to read, she is not yet comfortable with reading ion her own. She will read if I am alongside her, but not if I move away. This is the year to get her confident with reading because after that all her school will become so much easier for her. This is a student who needs to start learning to do little bits of school work on her own and I plan to teach her about working independently by strewing copious amounts of crafty inspiration, and she l=…


  13. Hood #7 – Beginner School:
  14. Core A: Introduction to World Cultures; Science A: Biology, Botany and Physics.

    This is a student who loves and adores school and may quite outstrip everyone in her gallop to the end. This is the year we do “100 Lessons” and learn how to read… all of my kids have taken months and wandered through this book slowly. Well we have literally covered half the book in three weeks. So this is going to be the year of hundreds of easy – readers… I am looking forward to that.


  15. Hood #8 – Pre-Pre School:
  16. Core P3/4/5: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Exploring god’s World;
    Our youngest really likes to be part of our school day and his time slot is immediately after lunch when we lie on the bed together and we are steadily reading our way through our entire collection of picture books.

24 Replies to “Se7en At School: What Are We Are Learning This Year…”

  1. Okay, this might be one of my favourite posts yet. LOVE. IT. My kids are in public school and I’ve been researching homeschooling forever, but it is sometimes difficult to visualise.
    What I really would like to ask, is: I’ve looked at the Sonlight curriculum, and have noted that you definately don’t order the full core. You even rather use Singapore math than Sonlight math. And also, within Sonlight core program itself, it seems you are selective in what you order? What is your main consideration when placing your order/s? Thanks so much for this.

  2. Hi Anel… So glad you enjoyed the read!!! I do actually order the cores. This is how it works: The core is the history, bible and reading part of the course and pick that according to the grade/age of your child; Then you can add the science program of your choice, usually to fit your grade; And finally you add the math, language arts, handwriting and any electives that you want to your order. All that together makes a full program for the year or longer, often folks take longer with their year than the prescribed 36 weeks.
    We usually buy one core, for our oldest, and then re-use the previous cores and only buy upgrades for the years below him. We are running out of cores… and eventually will have pretty much covered the catalog… though that has taken years and years of homeschooling, one grade at a time…
    Thanks for asking and hope that helps!!!

  3. I am the fly next to you Christi! 🙂 Well, i admire your energy and organization and determination…as your humor! You rock mum of 7 plus 1!…and the rest of the family! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi Christi… Thanks so much for stopping by… I simply forget that folk want to see the details, but soon as folk ask I remember to jot a few things down!!! glad you enjoyed it and hope you have a wonderful weekend!!!

  5. Hi Katja, Thank you for the lovely comment. I am so glad that you enjoyed reading our list of school goodies, folk often ask me to write it down but it takes me forever to get around to writing it down!!! I hope you have a wonderful long weekend!!!

  6. Ellen, Ummm that is a good question… I have no idea, but I will think about it for you. Right now I am hoping that my rhythm is in my coffee mug that’s next to me!!! But I will think about it for you and see if I can find some ideas for a post on it. Meanwhile have a great weekend!!!

  7. Thank you for “my” post! Love it! Next week is week 30 for my younger five. My older guys are a bit ahead. They wanted to finish their school year a bit early, before they leave with a group on a short mission trip to Peru. Have a Happy Easter!

  8. Hay Lillian. our mail box knew that I had finally written your post and your package of letters arrived!!! Thank you so much!!! Week 30 seems so many miles away now and yet I know before we blink we will be right there!!! And how wonderful for your big guys, what an opportunity, I pray that their adventure will fill up their hearts to the brim. And happy Easter to you all!!!

  9. One more question…I really like the Family School idea, and we read the Bible at the breakfast table. We have done a few little things over the years, but everyone is always eager to get on with their day, especially my big kids whose work takes longer. How do you handle that? Do your big kids stay for art, etc., at the table with everybody else, or go on to start their other school? Just wondering how this would work for us.

  10. Hi there Lillian, My kids would linger at the table doing “family school” all day everyday – given the choice. My big kids are the ones who linger the longest with art and other projects we do together at the table…they love family school. Right now we have been doing a lot of map-work together, all totally new stuff for them and everyone is loving it. Yes, my bigger guys have more school than the younger ones – but they are better at getting it done than their younger siblings and so everyone takes about the same time over their school… and we are usually finished by lunch time. If anyone doesn’t finish then they do the last bits much later in the afternoon, after lunch and a read and a play. I hope this helps… it’s what we do that works for us. Wishing you all the best!!!

  11. Thank you! Could you do a post on the new map work you are doing? I am interested. Have a great day!

  12. Hay Lillian – No Problem… I am planning a map-work post this month sometime!!! Hope you are having some summer weather, we are drowning and freezing over here!!!

  13. Just re-reading this post today as I’m finalizing our planning & prep for this year, and I have a question – is there anywhere in particular you get your Mental Math Challenges & Grammar Challenges? Thanks so much!

  14. Hay Christi… 1st Grammar: We are using Winston Grammar successfully, for all our reading age kids… a refresher for the older ones and brand new for the middle guys. Slow and steady, on sheet a week, just one or two days a week… they are enjoying it. And 2nd Mental Math: I confess that my kids might not have done any math for a fair while… we had a complete workbook aversion in last years schooling and I needed to get them back into enjoying playing with numbers. I am sure you can print of mental math sheets on the web, but I just went to the local stationary store…. they have very simple mental math pages “per grade” 20-14 quick questions a day, like: find the pattern, addition, multiplication, simple fractions and so on… I started in grade 2 (really easy… they all claimed they knew nothing, of course they discovered they were quite wrong)… and we are now flying through grade 5. I sit and read the questions straight after breakfast and they write the answers down, change pen and mark it on the spot.
    Uncovered all sorts of little issues and non of them were math related. One person marked everything correct, even when it was obviously incorrect… just couldn’t stand the sight of a wrong answer. Another that quit as soon as they thought they had made an error… why go on!!! It’s been quite fun, and they are in full swing now… I have no idea what I’ll do when I run out of books – except maybe start over – will they notice?!!! Hope this helps, have fun getting sorted!!!

  15. Thank you, thank you! It does help tremendously – especially the math! We’ve had the same sort of problem here & I’ve been wondering what on earth to do for math. So I will give this suggestion a try & start looking around for something similar! xo

  16. I love ‘Family School’. We do a bit of this with Bible reading, a read-aloud and some singing (’cause that’s what we’re into), but I’m wanting to extend this time and add some art and writing in here. So, here’s my weird random question… When do you do your breakfast cleanup? Do you all get up and do that then come back to the table…or… wait till you’ve finished your Family School time. I can imagine my lot having difficulties going back to morning chores after family time, but doing them first would mean they would be finished at different times and therefore some would drift away to do something else…kwim? Just curious as to how you do that. Told you it was a weird random question 😉

  17. Oh LindaOz, This is a great question…and one I have thought lot about. We don’t usually eat before all the chores are done. I have found that food is a great motivator. I have one scholar, in particular, who is never finished tidying his space before breakfast and he loves to return to “tidying” immediately after breakfast… this is always a fail as he can “tidy” all day. So I have had to get extremely serious about chores before food and we eat together… Those with longer chores are usually the earlier risers and they have to start earlier. Then there is usually the problem of how to clear the table before family school begins and yes this is a problem… because how do you get them back there. Clearing the table is pretty simple in and of itself… and I have a “chief table clearer for that…” So I usually start reading and then pause mid-chapter, gasp… send everyone to quickly clean their teeth and fetch their something, like their journal… as soon as they are back, the table is cleared (not washed up, just cleared) and I will finish out the chapter. We all like family school time so the kids are pretty keen to get back to the table (well mostly). My problem is, I can’t start until the father person leaves, talk about galactic distraction right at the start, and as soon as they all go down to the gate to say goodbye – they have now smelt the outdoors and it is very hard to get them back in!!! We are headed for summer, so my trick is to to drag the table outdoors… if they won’t come to me, then I will go to them!!! It works… but only with a large dose of “Sense of Humour” and craftiness!!! Wishing you all the best…

  18. Awesome. Thanks so much for answering. I love the ‘stopping in mid-chapter’ technique – that’s clever! I think I’ll try that one 🙂 We’ve been doing morning chores after breakfast but I think I might change that and get more done before then. Hmmm…food for thought (and motivation 😉 ). Thanks again.

  19. Hi Se7en! Just stopping by to say hello. We start our new school year tomorrow, with #2 starting college soon! Where are you in your Sonlight year? I’ve lost track. Just rereading a few of your school posts in anticipation of starting back. Hope you’re doing well!

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