August 12, 2016

Back to (Home) School

This post was sponsored by Boden as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review

When it comes to homeschooling, I definitely lean toward a classical model of education. I want my girls to be well-read, familiar with the classics, and have a strong grounding in history, literature, geography, art, and music.

I also want them to have plenty of time for exploration on their own, whether that's sewing (Ella's current favorite hobby, thanks to a little stitching kit my parents sent her for her birthday), building forts in the backyard, reading endless mystery novels, or putting on stage shows in the basement.

When I first went to public school in high school, I got asked all the time if it was weird to go to school, but really, the weirdest thing was how normal it all seemed. After a decade of reading books and watching movies and hearing about your friends go to school, you pretty much know what to expect.

The biggest shock, really, was how little free time I suddenly had. I was used to cranking through many books a week, and once I started attending public school, which took about twice as many hours as homeschool and then had hours of homework every night, I had almost no time to do things on my own anymore.

I feel like all that free time, paired with the structure of a fairly rigorous homeschool curriculum, helped me be pretty creative, interested in the world around me, and not easily bored, and that's what I want for my children too.

These photos I took of Ella for Mini Boden's back-to-school campaign basically encapsulate the kind of childhood I want for her and the other girls (I also wish my backyard looked like that, but that's another topic).

I've loved Mini Boden for years, and REALLY fell in love with their clothing when we lived in London and saw their products all over the place.

They have the cutest designs that are the perfect mix of fresh and classic, there are no tags (hallelujah!), they're beautifully made to hold up as hand-me-downs (a big deal when you have three little girls), and they have easy free shipping and returns over $49. (There's also a killer giveaway down at the bottom of this post, so don't miss that!).

Ella's been wearing these leggings and boots non-stop, and I also picked up this dress for her and can't wait for it to cool down a little (okay, a lot) so she can wear it with some tights. I love that they are the perfect mix of cozy comfortable and just plain cute.

Also, this zip sweatshirt is reversible, and I just love it so much (it replaced a hideous sweatshirt that Bart and I finally stashed in the donation pile last winter). Every darn thing thing in the back-to-school collection is ridiculously cute, plus you can get 25% off through this link.

Even if she's not technically going back to a classroom, it still makes me happy to see her looking so darling every morning across the kitchen table.

And since several people asked on my post a few weeks ago about what we were doing for homeschool this year, I thought I'd share our plans. I had grand aspirations of having everything planned out months before school started, and then of course I ended up finishing everything up the night before. 

We just started school on Wednesday, so things may morph over the course of the year, but here's what the plan is and, three days in, so far it's been a smashing success. 

Framework: I'm using The Well-Trained Mind as a basic framework. I read this years ago, several years before Ella was born, and long before I was at sure I wanted to even attempt homeschooling. I'm not following it to the letter, but I'm definitely incorporating a lot of their suggestions, and I find the list of resources for each subject extremely useful.

History: I felt like our history was really weak last year, which felt like a big fail to me, since I love history (and was a history major as an undergrad), so I was determined to step it up this year. I opted for The Story of the World (written by the author of The Well-Trained Mind), and so far I'm really impressed by it. Ella thrives on hands-on learning, so I also ordered the activity book that goes along with it that's full of maps, games, projects, quizzes, and more book recommendations. We do history three times a week, for about 20-40 minutes each time.

Science: Ella LOVES science, and basically wants to do non-stop experiments, which I like in theory, but in reality are a lot of prep and work so. . . I'm always disappointing her. We're following The Well-Trained Mind guide for 1st grade which is 20 weeks of Animal science, 10 weeks of Human Body science, and 10 weeks of Plant science.

Memorization: We picked up a copy of Poems to Learn by Heart, and I picked 12 poems I want her to memorize this year and she picked 12 she wanted to memorize. Shorter poems, we spend a week on, longer ones might take two or three. At the end of the year, I want to make another video of her reciting poems (and I want to make one of Ani too, since she often picks up the whole thing as we work on it).

Typing: I'm a super fast typer (thank you, Mavis Beacon) and it's very important to me that my children have solid typing skills. I planned to use the premium version of, but the site is down right now, so we've started the year with BBC Dance Mat Typing, and Ella LOVES it so far.  She does it twice a week.

Coding: We started using last year, and it was really great (and free!). She'll keep doing that this year, and we'll switch it up with Code Academy and Scratch.

Art: I feel like I am really weak on art history (my humanities professor father-in-law needs to move closer and give me a crash course on all the things I missed), and I want my children to have a better appreciation and recognition for famous art and artists. This year, we're just working through the Getting to Know the World's Great Artists series, one book a week. I'll probably learn way more than Ella.

Cooking: This was the highlight of Ella's year last year, but a big bother for me because she would always pick totally random things from my Pinterest board that we never had the ingredients for, and also my goal with cooking lessons is not for her to know how to make nothing but desserts (her goal for cooking lessons is probably to make nothing but desserts). This year I did a little research and ordered Cooking Class so that I can plan ahead for ingredients and also get a better variety of recipes (and not have her spend 30 minutes every week looking through endless cookbooks and online recipes). We do cooking lessons once a week, and I do a block with Ani and then one with Ella.

Math: This is our third year doing Horizon Math - we haven't tried anything else, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I think it's super solid and it's very easy on me. She's currently halfway through Grade 2. When she gets to about 4th or 5th grade math, we'll switch over to Saxon (and I will pray that she won't be a huge whiner like I was and cry every day during math lessons for a solid five years. My mom is a saint).

Handwriting: We used Handwriting without Tears last year, and I was really pleased with it, so we're sticking with that this year. She finished the Grade 1 book and most of Grade 2 last year, so I ordered Grade 3 this year, and she'll start in a week or so once she finishes Grade 2.

Spelling: This is the one I'm struggling to pick something. Last year, I just printed out a weekly list of words, but that was a hassle, and I'd like something with a little more structure. I'm considering Spelling Workout since it's what The Well-Trained Mind recommends and it's got great reviews but. . . I haven't pulled the trigger yet. You'd think this was a really life-changing decision or something.

Read Aloud: Ah, the best part of homeschooling. Or parenting, if we're being honest. I've started keeping a running list of books I want to read together this year, and I just love this time snuggled up on the couch every morning for 20 or 30 minutes. Right now, we're reading The Children of Noisy Village.

Extra Curricular Activities: The girls will be taking an art class, our library does a weekly STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) club that does some amazingly impressive stuff for 5-11 year olds, and they're both signed up for gymnastics. Ani is also doing a preschool co-op this year with five other three-year-olds, which she is ridiculously excited about.

If you have questions I didn't answer here, I'm happy to address them in another post.


  1. Oh my! Your home school list brought inspirational tears to my eyes! What a childhood to look forward to! If you had a fund me page I would donate! You continue to inspire, don't stop :) xx

  2. Amazing! I'd love to know how you keep your two younger daughters occupied during school time, or does Ella do much of her work independently?

  3. The best part about Ella being older than my kids is that I can just bookmark your posts each year and do a lot less prep work when buying things, so thanks for that ;)

  4. I love reading how others homeschool! I was myself for 5 years and definitely something I'm somewhat interested in for my son, a big part of the appeal being controlling our schedule, both during the day and throughout the year. This makes it sound easy-ish? And Saxon...oh boy I had such a hate for that in middle school and I don't know why!!

  5. Love this, thank you for posting what you will be using! My little guy is in first grade and I am homeschooling him again. I love getting ideas from others!

  6. A suggestion for spelling...Words Their Way. I used to teach, and that was by far my favorite program out there. It's basically a weekly word sort that they can play different games with everyday and is easy for students to complete with little help. There's an assessment at the beginning that shows you exactly which sort to start on. I can give you more details on how to use it, if you need it...just email me at amylynne09 at gmail. If you google it, you can find whole versions of the book online, or I'm sure you could buy it on amazon. Good luck!!

  7. Check out Sequential Spelling. Super easy, move at your own pace.

  8. I second Words Their Way. I also love the World's Greatest Artists Series!

  9. Sounds like a solid program to me! I love Spelling City. You put in the words (though they have suggested ones) and there's tons of games generated from your list. It's strictly electronic, so probably not the most ideal if that was your only method, but it certainly makes it fun.

    Aaaaand I'm slightly obsessed with Story of the World. The activity book is awesome.

  10. I'm so glad you posted this. I briefly homeschooled in a different state (we now live in Nevada, where I'm from, but I homeschooled in Colorado) so I have gone through tons of the back and forth with curriculum. I love story of the world so much. And first language lessons. We have used math u see and I really like the way the instructor teaches it on the DVDs. We are trying all about spelling this time and handwriting without tears. Also, my husband searched all around for a typing program and settled on Typesy. I haven't even looked at it yet so I'm anxious to see if I'll like it. Also, I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this but I have no clue what coding is. Apparently kids need to learn it these days?!?! 😳 Keep posting. I love getting ideas from others.

  11. Thanks for this post! It gave me lots of great ideas to supplement our homeschool this year. I'd also be interested to read a post about how you keep your other kids entertained during all of this - especially the baby! Love your blog!

  12. Thank you for sharing! It's always fun to see what other homeschoolers choose. Did you share the list of poems you used somewhere? I was thinking of adding that into our school routine but I was looking for ideas.

  13. I like your new header. Looks like it's time for me to do a stream of comments soon. I've been having T help with meal planning as well and I'm like well thats a dessert we need to pick meals. its been fun to cook the meals she's planned.

  14. My mother in law introduced me to their women's clothing a few years ago. I like the women's clothing at Boden especially since the dresses you can request tall so they are a little longer and a lot of them have sleeves.

  15. I don't know if it's a good spelling program for younger kids, but I used Wordly Wise back in the day and I loved it! We'd type up the definitions for all of the spelling words, and then there are a series of exercises where you practice using or identifying the words in the correct context. In the older grades there were even exercises involving the word origins including Greek and Latin prefixes, stems and suffixes. It was really challenging and fulfilling, for a spelling program ;) We're living in a non-English speaking country, so even though our kids will probably go to public school we're planning on ordering the Wordly Wise workbooks for our kids when the time comes. I think it will be especially useful to have a spelling program with an emphasis on word usage if they're growing up with so few native English speakers around.

  16. I'm also curious about how you balance out schooling Ella and taking care of your other girls (not to mention working yourself, cleaning, shopping, cooking, etc.). Is your preschool co-op with friends meaning that you will have to prepare lessons for that as well? Thinking about your schedule makes me overwhelmed, but maybe it's not as intense as it seems?

  17. I just ordered almost every book you linked to...

  18. Words Their Way is not aimed at homeschoolers but could be a good option for you for spelling instruction. You can assess her and have her working right at the patterns she needs to be learning and progress from there.


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