Smithically Schooling: Year 6

Posted by in classical conversations, homeschooling, organize

This is the year when homeschooling starts to get more difficult. But I also know that things are about to get even better.

No longer are we all in the lower-elementary years of lots of crafts, cutting, coloring, and pasting, filling in the blanks, and learning to read. Math will be getting trickier (but I’m totally ready for it!), writing assignments and research will be part of our curriculum, and school will definitely not be done by lunchtime on most days.

I do have a 1st/2nd, 3rd-grader, and 4th grader, so it seems we should be in the “lower” elementary grades. But our curriculums have been kicked up a notch. And I’m quite excited.



Essentials of the English Language. Formally, this is Rowan’s curriculum. But naturally, Sawyer and Adam will soak up some of it. If they only soak it up by listening in, they’ll still be advanced in their grammar as this program is intense. Lots to learn, digest and diagram…

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).  Rowan will be the main student taking IEW writing with me this year. I’m teaching this in the co-op class for 9-12 year olds. I’ve been preparing for an entire month already – there is SO MUCH to this curriculum. It’s a great way to introduce young students to the way of writing. It feels a little constraining to me as I’ve loved writing for years, but I can see how it’s going to be a good program for beginning writers. I’m excited to see how this plays out this year.

Medieval Based Writing Lessons – We will use medieval history for all of our writing assignments. Fortunately, this curriculum does all the grunt-work in finding writing assignments for us, based on our current study of history.

Sawyer and Adam will do writing exercises with me from the Writing with Ease curriculum and we’ll probably be using history or short fiction pieces form the books that they’re reading at the time.

Spell to Write and Read for Sawyer and Adam.

Rowan will be leaving SWR for the first time and doing spelling in his Classical Conversations Essentials Class. I’m almost considering doing the spelling lists from this curriculum with Sawyer in preparation of next year. That might happen mid-way through first semester.

Story of the World Volume 2: The Middle Ages

We loved Volume 1: Ancient Times last year. We loved the activity book, and adored listening to Jim Weiss narrate each chapter. We’re excited to dive into the Middle Ages this year.

We’ll re-learn the Veritas Press History Timeline and watch as many times as possible the History Teachers videos on Youtube. Because I love them.

Our history curriculum covers lots and lots of maps, but I’m using Ann Voskamp’s A Child’s Geography to do some overall geography.  We also use Kathy Troxel’s Geography Songs (horrible web site, but fun music!) when we get to a country or continent elsewhere in our studies.

We will continue to memorize theories, formulas, and lists (we are still thick in the grammar stage of science) and do science experiments at least once every two weeks. We use Janice Van Cleave’s 201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre and Incredible Experiments and surprisingly, Pinterest has some great mini-experiments that are fun to do.

Fortunately, classical education is like that of the Charlotte Mason theory: Don’t do formal science until their mind is ready to ask the “why’s” of science. Fill them with awe and wonder for as long as possible and when they reach that wonderful dialectic age, then you can introduce formal science.

Rowan is starting with Teaching Textbooks 5 this year. I’m excited because his lesson is done all on the laptop while I can be free to teach Adam and Sawyer. Instead of teaching three different math lessons a day, I only have to teach two levels, and Rowan will learn on his own. I am still able to follow his progress and make sure he understands all new concepts, but the bulk of his lessons are now online. He and I are both excited about this.

Sawyer and Adam will continue their levels in Right Start Mathematics, which has been a fantastic math program over the years (and if I’m honest, I’m hoping Teaching Textbooks can live up to the hype because I think Right Start is nearly perfect. It’s just very time-consuming).

We all take some time off every now and then to watch some Khan Academy videos.

Art and Music
We listen to various classical music artists during our art sessions, and this year we’ll do some brief studies of some of the major classical musicians and time periods. Classical Music for Dummies is our main resource, but really there is a lot of information on classical music available.

We love art projects (especially Adam) and love to learn new methods of “making art.”   Discovering Great Artists and Drawing with Children have been recommended via Classical Conversations. I also use Pinterest to find some interesting art projects and techniques for painting.

We are also going to be learning, memorizing, and discussing ancient hymns. I feel we are doing a disservice to the boys by not introducing them to reading music, singing parts, and learning deeper theological truths found in the ancient hymn.

Weekly Homeschool Gym Class – once a week, totally organized, many sports are covered.
Soccer (Rowan and Sawyer) – this is their 6th year of soccer!  they still love it so much.
Dance (Adam) – Adam wants to take a eyar off from gymnastics and try some dance classes.
TheaterShrek and A Christmas Carol. Two totally different theatrical experiences.
Boys Book Club – we read five books throughout the year with other boys and meet once every two months to discuss the book. Our first book, which we’ve been reading together, is the classic Western, Shane.
Piano Lessons – a brand new teacher. We’re trying for at least 3 months.
Monthly Roller Blading – the boys look forward to this every month. they’re excellent skaters now, and get totally worn out skating for two hours.
Spanish (Sawyer and Adam)

Mom’s Book Shelf 
I spend all summer reading novels that I’ve wanted to read for a while, or that catch my interest. Since signing up with Goodreads in March of this year, my to-read list has gotten even longer!  But during the school year, I try to stick with non-fiction to keep my brain firing on all four cylinders. Here is what I intend to read this school year:

Beauty for Truth’s Sake by Stratford Caldecott
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
At Home by Bill Bryson
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey (releases in November)

What challenging books have you read recently, that you’d like to recommend?


Pennsylvania has some of the strictest rules for homeschoolers in the country. On August 1st, all homeschoolers in PA had to have a notarized affidavit and letter of intent filed with their school district. We were out of town on the first of August, so I did this first thing in the morning on August 5th. Last year, the school district notarized the documents for me, but this year, they told me they discontinued that service. They told me to go to the magistrate’s office of our little town.  The magistrate was a middle aged, stern-looking man who resembled Mr. Clean. I was intimidated, but he was very encouraging about our homeschooling, told me about his grown children and how he wished they would have homeschooled, and as we were leaving gave the boys their choice of Skittles or large KitKat bars. They all chose the Skittles. They take after their mama.

Here’s to a great school year for all of us!


*photo courtesy of Ruth E Hendrick’s Photography and