Planning Our 2018-2019 Homeschool Year {Part Three}

After being temporarily out of commission thanks to illness {a lovely round of bronchitis, including a bonus reaction to the medicine that was supposed to be helping} I’m feeling up to homeschool planning fun once again. In Part One I addressed our overall plans as well as specifics for math, language arts, and Spanish. Part Two looked at geography, world religions, and mythology. Part Three will cover world history, American history, current events, and critical thinking. 

World History

Our world history spine, History Year by Year, is another we’ve been using for several years running now. I originally thought we would move through it relatively quickly, probably taking no more than two full school years. Well . . .  we’re wrapping up our third year now and we still have quite a ways to go. 

In the past three school years {4th, 5th, and 6th for Agent E; 2nd, 3rd, 4th for Agent J; and K, 1st, 2nd for Agent A . . . although A really just started sitting in on our readings this year} we have examined the first five sections: Before History Began; Really Ancient History; Much More Civilized; The Marvelous Middle Ages; and Exploring and Reforming. This covers world history from the time of early hominids up to the mid 18th century.

In keeping with our review year theme, we will start the 2018-2019 school year with a re-reading of everything we’ve covered so far. We might even be wild and crazy and finally create that wall timeline we’ve been talking about putting up forever. We love a good timeline around here, pretty much why we were attracted to this particular book in the first place. 

Agent J hugging a tree on the National Mall
during our trip to Washington, D.C. {
December 2016}

American History

When it comes to American History, we seem to have little problem finding good resources—just look at this huge list of books and videos we have used and loved—but we tend to get off track when actually implementing a consistent plan of study. 

This past school year we started a new spine—National Geographic’s United States Encyclopedia—but did not really progress through as much of it as we had hoped. We did read the brief history of the US, and began our state-by-state study, but ultimately we ended up only finishing eight states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. I think next year we will do a quick review of the book intro/history of the US and then proceed in order, pausing to spend more time on the states we skipped this year.

Of course, we will likely enjoy yet another viewing of Liberty’s Kids, as well as a review of the presidents {the Basher book of US presidents is always a hit}. We will also devote some time to a review of historical documents and landmarks, with an emphasis on the Constitution. {The series Introducing Primary Sources by Kathryn Clay has been well received in the past.}

Each Agent also has a United States coloring book by Dover, a fun extra addition to our studies. {We’ve also used the Greek Mythology one, and are considering adding others. Because who doesn’t love a little bit of coloring during school time?}

Much smaller Agents about to check out the National Museum of American History
in Washington, D.C. {November 2014}

Current Events

The only current events source we use on a regular basis right now is Our Little Earth. It’s published online biweekly, and I typically print out a copy so we can more easily go through it together on the couch during our morning reading time. It’s a nice, quick read that focuses on international news {i.e., not much U.S. political drama}. 

Other sources we’ve considered include BBC Newsround {mostly videos, which is not really the Agents’ thing} and Smithsonian Tween Tribune {which can be viewed as increasingly complex articles based on grade level}. 

The other option, of course, is simply to scroll through a reliable news source {BBC or NPR} with them every few days and read/discuss whatever jumps out at us. I kind of like the idea of a more focused approach, though, and having something that is more aimed toward kids/tweens. Coming up with a consistent plan for current events will likely be a work in progress this year.

Critical Thinking

There are a few books we’ve enjoyed in the past that we will likely revisit this year, including the following:
 Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong by Dan Barker
 Maybe Yes, Maybe No also by Dan Barker
 If You Had To Choose, What Would You Do? by Sandra McLeod Humphrey
 What Would You Do? from the American Girl Library

We will also spend significant time on evaluating sources {particularly when it comes to science and health matters}, the proliferation of “fake news” in our culture today, and social media influences. {Currently no Agent uses social media, but it’s only a matter of time. Agent E, who will be 12 soon, has already expressed an interest.} 

Our short list of other resources includes Newseum and NewseumEd, as well as a detailed look at the critical thinking questions posed in this checklist  by the Global Digital Citizen Foundation.

Planning Our 2018-2019 Homeschool Year {Part Two}

In Part One of Planning Our 2018-2019 Homeschool Year I offered an overview of our intention to slow down a bit next year and use the first few months of the school calendar as more of a review. I also outlined our goals for Math, Language Arts, and Spanish. This post will address our plans for Geography, World Religions, and Mythology.


We purchased the Geography Visual Encyclopedia {published by Smithsonian} at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, and we’ve incorporated some aspect of it as a spine for the last three school years. 

The first two years, we worked our way through sections on planet earth; rocks and minerals; water; climate and weather; and life on earth. During the current year, we finished up the sections on human geography and mapping and did a brief survey of each continent, supplementing with another great book, Where On Earth?

Next year we plan to start at the beginning of the book again, spending about a month {give or take} on each section. We will also be re-reading the corresponding books by Seymour Simon, one of our favorite go-to authors for geography, history, science, and health. For example, when we re-read the first section on Planet Earth, we will also look at The Solar SystemEarthquakes, and Volcanoes, among others. We like his books in particular because they are detailed enough to be interesting for my older students yet simple enough to be easily followed by the youngest.

World Religions

As with our Geography spine, we purchased the book What Do You Believe? for the 2015-2016 school year. The Senior Agents and I have already read it cover to cover twice. We started reading it with Agent A last year, but he wasn’t quite ready for it so we put it aside. This year we plan yet another re-read, along with some additional books/series we’ve enjoyed to supplement. This will likely include the This Is My Faith series {covering BuddhismChristianityHinduismIslamJudaism, and Sikhism from the perspective of a child who practices the faith}; The Belief Book and The Book of Gods; as well as Rupert’s Tales {an introduction to Pagan practices}.


Our original objective was to dive into Norse mythology at the beginning of the next school year, but now that we’re on this review year path we have decided to go back over some of the stories we’ve already explored. Our list of probable re-reads includes Basher Mythology: The Stuff of Legends, the Treasury of Greek Mythology, and the Treasury of Egyptian Mythology. We will also likely take another look at the Children’s Book of Mythical Beasts and Magical Monsters, as it was so much fun. I’m sure that many other folk tales, legends, and fables will work their way back in for a second time, because this is a favorite Agent topic.

Note: For my non-religious students, making a distinction between what constitutes a religion and what constitutes a mythology can be fuzzy. To them—to us—it’s all fictional, so why separate into two separate studies? In fact, it has been said that mythology is simply a religion no one currently practices. If you consider myths to be another word for stories, you could say that all religions have mythology, but not all mythologies are religions. I make the distinction between the study of the two only to emphasis which ones the Agents are likely to know real live practitioners of and which ones they are not.