Inclined Planes


On balance, I’d take homeschooling with a newborn over homeschooling with a full-time job. Either way, I’ve been tired a lot since, like, summer, but that’ll get better. Our homeschool isn’t quite as ambitious as I’d planned, but dude, it’s kindergarten. The point of kindergarten is to have fun and learn to love learning.

Today’s science lesson was about inclined planes. This was super great because Soren got to play with cars and marbles while I sat on the couch with the baby. That was nice. We spend a lot of time doing school in the kitchen, but I’ve been trying to diversity into more comfortable furniture situations.

Welcome to 2016!

Remember how I quit my job? My last day was a Wednesday. The following Monday, Soren and I were at homeschool day at the botanic gardens when I got a call saying basically “Hey, will you come back please sure you can work from home full time.” I spent the next three months working full time for a terrifically understaffed department while also homeschooling a kindergartner for the first time, which was way too much work. Then we adopted a baby (yay!!) and I quit my job again.

Here’s what I look like after 20 hours in the car with Ben, Soren, and two bored dogs; a crazy terrifying awesome day and night; and with our new son. His name is Orion and we are smitten.


I plan to get back to writing here, even if I start small by just telling you what we’re up to on a given day. I miss this!

Our Great Big Secular Eclectic Homeschool Plan

2015-08-09 16.07.11

Every homeschool needs a gigantic world map on the wall.

My overall goal is for Kindergarten to be an introduction to learning. Although Soren has been in preschool for years and has already done kindergarten (referred to as “junior kindergarten,” which is when Soren’s school let some kids who weren’t technically old enough join the kindergarten class last year), this is the year we spend learning how to learn (him) and learning how to teach (me).

Without further ado or more words on a long post, here’s the scoop on what curricula and resources we’ll be using this year.


The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington

  • What: just the book
  • Why: recommended in The Well-Trained Mind (WTM)

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Englemann, Phyllis Haddox, and Elaine Bruner

  • What: just the book
  • Why: recommended online

BOB Books

  • What: Set 1: Beginning Readers and Sight Words: First Grade
  • Why: recommended online plus they’re really cute

Hooked on Phonics: Learn to Read Levels 3 & 4, Word Families, Ages 4-6

  • What: everything that comes in the boxed set
  • Why: I’ve seen this recommended online many times and kids seem to really like it. This is the only thing we have that comes with a DVD. Once we dig out an old computer that can even play DVDs, I hope Soren can on occasion use it to work independently.

Amish reading books

  • What: Before We Read; First Steps (book and workbook); Before We Read and First Steps Teacher’s Edition, Learning Through Sounds and Learning Through Sounds Grade 1 – Book 2; Learning Through Sounds Book 1 & 2 Teacher’s Edition; Helping Yourself: A Seatwork Book for First Grade
  • Why: I saw these recommended online and I love how old-timey they are! I’ve only flipped through them but I haven’t seen anything overtly religious. There’s a lot of chickens and cows and farm-type stuff, which we like.

Also, we will be reading tons of books (see discussion of Build Your Library below).

Wow, that’s a ton of reading stuff. I don’t think you can have too many options when it comes to learning to read, but now that I look at this, I can’t say for sure that we’ll do everything. We can see what works and always save some for next year.


Handwriting Without Tears: Letters and Numbers for Me

  • What: the book and a pack of their wide double line notebook paper
  • Why: recommended in WTM and online



Spelling Workout by Phillip K. Trocki

  • What: Spelling Workout Level A book and teacher’s edition
  • Why: recommended in WTM



First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie White

  • What: just the book
  • Why: recommended in WTM



Math in Focus: Singapore Math by Marshall Cavendish

  • What: kindergarten A and B workbooks and teacher’s edition and the book of kindergarten assessments
  • Why: This is the math curriculum they use at the highly gifted and talented school and I figured those guys know what they’re doing.

I also ordered the Math in Focus Complete Manipulative Kit Grades K-5 from Rainbow Resource Center (that is not an affiliate link). This was expensive but probably a good idea — Soren already likes to ask if we can homeschool now and play with math stuff.


Intro to Science by Paige Hudson

  • What: teacher guide, student pages, experiment kit, and The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
  • Why: recommended online, plus I like how structured it is for someone who has no idea how to teach science

Charlotte-Mason-style nature study

  • What: Masterclass Premium Sketch Book, 9×12 inches, 60 pound, 100 sheets, perforated/acid free (for nature journal — I got one for me, too, so we can both keep a nature journal); The Young Naturalist by Andrew W. Mitchell; The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms by Clare Walker Leslie; The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
  • Why: I agree with Charlotte Mason that nature study and being out in nature is super important.

R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Earth & Space (level one) by Terri Williams

  • What: just the book (We probably won’t start this until we finish Intro to Science, but I thought it looked cool and figured I’d get it now so I don’t forget.)


Adventures in America: An Introduction to American History For the Grammar Stage by Angela Blau

  • What: teacher book and student notebook, the book Smart About the Fifty States, plus the ten recommended read aloud books
  • Why: I saw this recommended online and think it will be a fun introduction to U.S. history. Next year for first grade we’ll start the four-year cycle advocated in WTM and do ancient history.


Geography is the kind of thing we can tie into anything. We love looking at maps and talking about different places.

  • What: Michelin World Map, Stack the States for iPad, Scrambled States game

See also Build Your Library

Build Your Library

This is really cool! It’s a secular, Charlotte Mason inspired, literature-based curriculum.


Art Lab for Kids by Susan Schwake

  • What: the book and tons of art supplies from “The Master List” in the book. I spent a lot of money on art supplies and didn’t even come close to getting everything listed.
  • Why: I found this while browsing for art stuff and it looked really cool. I am happy to be over ambitious with art.

Build Your Library also includes art projects.


Guitar lessons

Music appreciation and enjoyment/listening to different things/going to concerts (Riot Fest is educational!)

Physical Education

This will be a mashup of things, including: playing on a soccer team, golf through The First Tee of Denver, yoga, and stuff from The Ultimate Homeschool Physical Education Game Book by Guy Bailey. Soren isn’t old enough to lift weights yet but sometimes shows interest in what I’m doing so I try to incorporate some age-appropriate activities for him when I can.


Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness With Children by Thich Nhat Hahn and the Plum Village Community

  • What: just the book and accompanying CD
  • Why: I think mindfulness is a super important thing for kids to learn and that I could benefit from it, as well.
  • Note: This is Buddhist and not secular.

Current Events

  • What: I got a subscription to High Country News, which is a really cool nonprofit, independent, biweekly publication that focuses on “issues that define the American West.”
  • Why: I want discuss current events without getting into difficult political/social/justice issues just yet. So for now we’ll focus on issues related to living in the West and the environment. I’ll read an article aloud and then we’ll discuss it, maybe over lunch.

Field Trips and Social Stuff

I plan to get us out and about at least once a week for field trips and/or fun social time with others.  Plus we’ll be taking frequent trips to the library.


Brain Quest Workbook (K)

Home Workbooks: Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Home Workbooks Gold Star Edition Phonics for Kindergarten

100 Write-and Learn Sight Word Practice Pages

Big Workbook Kindergarten (We’ve been working on this one over the summer.)

Poems to Learn by Heart by Caroline Kennedy

a small whiteboard for keeping track of our daily schedule and some classroom bulletin board/calendar/job posters

We’ll also be doing stuff around the house, like taking care of the garden and chickens and making lunch together.


I’m using the 2015-2016 Family Homeschool Planner by Patricia Espinoza of I had a hard time deciding between a printed or an online planner. For now, I think printed will be easier for me because I have a hard time looking at the big picture planning-wise on a screen, plus I don’t want to get stuck using an online planner that requires monthly payments because geez I’ve already spent enough money on all these books. This was inexpensive and it contains nice quotes that don’t come from the Bible.

I plan to have a rough schedule for each day, which I’ll put on a whiteboard in the kitchen, but there won’t be set times for things. For example, we might start with math. Math will take as long as it takes and when we’re done, we’ll move on to the next thing. We’ll take breaks. Ideally, we’ll have free time in the afternoons.

Ordering Homeschool Supplies

I ordered most things from Amazon or Rainbow Resource Center. Yesterday I ordered a few classroom-type supplies from Really Good Stuff. I haven’t included links for most things because if there’s something you want to buy, you’re probably better off googling and deciding where you want to shop, plus I like to make clear that I don’t use affiliate links and am never trying to sell you anything.

Wow, that’s a mountain of stuff! We’re going to do a lot of learning this year!

Charlotte Mason

I was going to write a post about the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling, but good news! Somebody already did it!

Here’s a great post about Charlotte Mason in the Secular Homeschool. I plan to mostly use this method, although I will use some textbooks (I think they’re fun textbooks!) for kindergarten at least. My big post about our curricula is coming soon — really soon, because we start homeschooling next week!

Classical Education/The Well-Trained Mind

The Well-Trained Mind (WTM) is the first book I read about homeschooling. To summarize as briefly as possible, WTM is like the Tiger Mom of homeschooling. It covers everything, and more — more than you’d ever want to actually do. This is great because my biggest fear (and I suspect the biggest fear of most new homeschooling parents) is that I’ll miss something and my child’s education will be woefully lacking in some way. WTM is intense, but that’s good because its intensity is what convinced me I can do this. Reading WTM1 gave me the information I need to build a foundation for our homeschooling. It gave me a good grasp of “the what” of homeschooling — what we want to learn.2

Here is a good overview of WTM.

What I’m Taking From The Well-Trained Mind

“Seize this early excitement. Let the child delve deep. Let him read, read, read. Don’t force him to stop and reflect on it yet. Don’t make him decide what he likes and doesn’t like. . . .”

“The immature mind is more suited to absorption than argument. The critical and logical faculty simply doesn’t develop until later on. . . . There is nothing wrong with a child accumulating information that he doesn’t yet understand. It all goes into the storehouse for use later on.”

“Remember, classical education teaches a child how to learn. The child who knows how to learn will grown into a well-rounded — and well-equipped — adult . . . even if he didn’t finish his first-grade science book.”

In elementary grades, prioritize reading, writing, grammar, and math.

Subject areas to cover: reading, writing, spelling, grammar, math, science, history, geography, art, music.
1. Full disclosure! I didn’t read the whole book. It’s huge. I read the parts that apply to elementary education. I figured I don’t need to overwhelm myself by reading about middle and high school yet and can read that stuff later.
2. My next discussion of “the what” will focus on curricula. When it comes to “the how” of homeschooling, I’m leaning toward Charlotte Mason and Montessori.  Apparently as a legal type, I like to break things down into substance and procedure.