22 March 2013

What We're Really Doing, Plus a Book List

A recent conversation with a homeschooling friend led me to this conclusion: Although my initial reaction to describing our homeschool "style" is to go with child-led, interest-led, or some version of that, in reality when it comes to method what we are doing is a series of really long unit studies simultaneously.

Now, the "child-led" component is still a big part of it, as we (Agent E and I) always discuss options for what we want to study together and make mutual decisions as to what comes next, but . . . yeah. We are Unit Study People.

This is pretty much our strategy: We pick a few central topics, and organize our "school work" around them for a few months, then move on to new topics. In doing so, we incorporate our chosen subjects into reading, writing, science, math . . . even field trips. (Of course we add other things in from time to time as well, such as current holidays, random science experiments involving household items, or information specific to upcoming travels.)

One of our most used resources is the public library. Other than the Internet (a post of its own, coming soon) I cannot think of anything more valuable to a homeschooling family, especially one that is pretty much winging it and making up curriculum on the fly.

At any given time, we have anywhere from 15 to 40 books checked out. We (meaning I) find it easier to check out a ton of books and renew them once or twice rather than trying to get to the library more frequently. Especially when Agent A sees every visit as an opportunity to participate in a fun new game called Toddlers Run Wild at the Children's Room While Trying To Topple and Destroy As Many Things As Possible

(Side note: Our library's limit is 50 per card. So, in theory, between our two cards—I have one and Agent E has her own—we could have 100 items at once. Not that I'd be able to even carry 100 books in/out of the library and still wrangle three Agents in the parking lot and to the car, but the option is there.)

Following is a list of our current stash, organized by subject. You may have noticed I write about books a lot on this blog and often make lists just like this one. The reason is two-fold: First, I enjoy seeing what other homeschooling families with similar-age children are reading, so I figure others might as well. I'm always looking for new ideas, especially when it comes to chapter books for E. Second, this gives me a record to share at our end-of-year homeschool evaluation (required by the state) of the kinds of books we're using.

Our current themes are dinosaurs, space, and the human body, so those are listed first. I've also included a list of chapter books Agent E is reading, as well as some early readers for Agent J. Finally, sometimes we end up with random, just-for-fun titles, either on purpose or because Agent A stuck them in the bag.

Dinosaur Books
My Favorite Dinosaurs by John Sibbick and Ruth Ashby
Paleontology: The Study of Prehistoric Life by Susan H. Gray
Triceratops by Daniel Cohen
Stegosaurus by Daniel Cohen
Ankylosaurus by Daniel Cohen
Math Adventures: Digging for Dinosaurs by Wendy Clemson and David Clemson

Space Books
Scholastic Discover More: Planets by Penelope Arlon and Tory Gordon-Harris
The Planets by Gail Gibbons
Venus by Adele Richardson
Space! Venus by Ruth Bjorklund
Galileo and the Telescope by Yoming S. Lin
Math Adventures: Rocket to the Moon by Wendy Clemson and David Clemson
Seeing Red: The Planet Mars by Nancy Loewen
Mars by Elaine Landau
The Sun by Allison Lassieur
Discover the Stars by Cynthia Pratt Nicolson

Human Body Books
The Human Body by Seymour Simon
The Respiratory System by Darlene R. Stille
Look at Your Body: Lungs by Steve Parker
My Brain (My Body) by Sally Hewitt
The Circulatory Story by Mary K. Corcoran
The Little Brainwaves Investigate . . . Human Body by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar
The Big Book of Bones: An Introduction to Skeletons by Claire Llewellyn

Chapter Books for E
Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Monster Movie by David A. Adler
Cam Jansen and the Mystery at Monkey House by David A. Adler
A to Z Mysteries: The White Wolf by Ron Roy
Mermaid Tales: Danger in the Deep Blue Sea by Debbie Dadey

Early Readers for J
BOB Books (Set 1, books 5-8; Set 4, books 3-4) by Bobby Lynn Maslen
Cinderella's Countdown to the Ball by Heidi Kilgras
Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street? by Eleanor Hudson

Just for Fun
A Second Is a Hiccup: A Child's Book of Time by Hazel Hutchins
How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague 
Christmas Storybook Collection  by Disney Press
A Magical Christmas  by Disney Press
Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure by Lisa Marsoli
My Little Pony: The World's Biggest Tea Party by Jennifer Frantz

What are your kids reading?

p.s. I'm linking this post up at both Christian Mommy Blogger Fellowship Fridays and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers Weekly Wrap-Up.


  1. That's very much how we study too. We're a little more structured than unschoolers because we have routines and focused times of the day for working on our interests and learning. However, our actual studies and how we go about them are very much up to negotiation between teacher and students. Sometimes on an hour by hour basis!...My kids are really into robots and butterflies right now, and we're reading our way through the Magic Tree House books together.

    1. I just picked up a Magic Tree House book for E this week at a used book sale. She hasn't read any of them yet, but it seemed like something she would be into. Especially since this particular one is about somewhere we've been (Pompeii).

  2. I think this is the "method" we gravitate towards too? I came here from my Long post on Hip Homeschooling Mom's BTW; ) I keep looking at the already planned for you curriculums, like Heart of Dakota (one I am still on the fence about) and Trail Guides Paths of Exploration ( just looks Fun), because they have already mapped out a plan, and figured out how to incorporate Lang arts.
    But when I look at these, I think..but what about the list of "want to learn more about" we made a week ago? They told me..robots! Rockets! Reptiles! Horses! Lots of science type stuff, and I have found unit studies online for the science aspect, but how do you incorporate Lang arts/grammar and math? Do you have a textbook type book for these? I like the idea of Living Math and since my daughter reads all the time anyway, using what she is already reading ( Magic Tree House, Little House on-the Prairie, the Black stallion, etc..)? It is just daunting, as a new homeschooler to try to figure out how to make sure they are getting what they need as far as the three Rs but also having it be interest led? How do you plan for this or document this? I h as be a 3rd grader and 5k I'm looking at doing school with, plus a rowdy 18 month old. So the less structured, workbook, sit and be still time, the better!!;)

    1. We sometimes find workbooks that correspond to what we're working in at the dollar section of Target. Other than that, we mostly just print stuff we find online. We never felt the need to find a "planned" curriculum, because we have so many ideas about what to study we'll never get to them as is. We end up doing mostly science stuff, and then incorporating reading, writing, and other stuff into those topics. Math comes up on an as needed basis. I downloaded her a game on the Kindle, and she was like: I need to learn how to multiply to play this game. Teach me. We don't really go looking for stuff so much as it just kinda finds us. As far as documenting, we keep track of what she reads (not every book, but many), and keep all worksheets/workbooks, etc. I also write up summaries of what we're doing (kind of what this whole blog is, LOL) to keep track for end-of-year stuff.