You Asked: Homeschool Curriculum, Year Round School, and Fitting it All In

You all are doing great at asking questions.  I, on the other hand, am not doing so well at keeping up, but the great thing is that I have no shortage of things to post about.  🙂

Vicki emailed and asked, “So my question is about school. Do you use a particular curriculum or make up your own? How do you handle assignments, with an assignment sheet? Are all your kids studying the same things say in History and Science?

We actually use a pre-planned curriculum to give us a basis for Bible, History, Literature, Reading and Science, but we add a lot more to our kids education even in those areas.  We have used Sonlight Curriculum for the past 5 1/2 years and love it.  I’ve mentioned several times that in all the years of homeschooling I’ve never felt burn-out.  I think a lot of that is thanks to Sonlight.  Now before you go out and buy the whole package, Sonlight is an imperfect curriculum just like all the others.  However, Sonlight’s weak points (and I could tell you all about them) are minimized with how we implement the program and Sonlight’s strong points (enjoyable, diverse selection of books, planned and scheduled yet versatile and easy to adapt for many age levels) are things that are important to us.  If there is interest, I will devote a whole post to Sonlight, what we like and what we don’t, how we use it in our home and how it fits with our mulit-level homeschooling.

Edited to add:  There was interest in a post dedicated to Sonlight.

I generally write assignments up on our chalkboard wall as we go through our day.  (Although I’m currently working with Sue Patrick’s Workbox System in order to write a review.)  The first hour and a half of our school, is the same each day and is strictly scheduled, I work with the younger children while the older ones work through some independent work (math, Greek and handwriting).   After that we do all of our group things together.  (Currently, history, science, Bible, a composers study, nutrition, grammar, writing, etc.)  As we go through each subject I give any work-alone assignments and write them on the wall for the children to complete later.  Our group time consists of reading aloud and discussing what we read and usually takes 2-3 hours.

Yes, my children are studying the same things in History and Science.  We are transitioning to having two distinct levels of students in these subjects, but we will still continue to study the same topics.  Was that clear as mud?

Amber, Alyssa and Nick Splash padTara @ Too many Kids in the Bathtub and Valerie @ In Faith and In Purity wondered  where we get the swimsuits for our girls.

We purchase them through  A couple of notes about our Swim Modest suits, they are quite pricey AND we have not been able to pass them down.  They really only last one summer and our kids do not have a lot of opportunities to swim.

I also appreciate Land’s End selection of swim separates that allow you to pick your choice of top and bottom to create a cute modest suit.  Land’s End can also be pricey, but we’ve found that our Land’s End suits last much longer than the Swim Modest suits.

When I posted about the window crayons Julie, Tania @ Living Life the Large Family Way, and Veronica @ Dreaming of Adoption asked if they were easy to clean.

Well I finally cleaned that sliding glass door and while it did require glass cleaner (a lot of it) it wasn’t too hard to get everything sparkling again, which lasted for all of 70 seconds and only that long because Nicholas was a few rooms away when I finished cleaning it and it took him some time to come running.

Mindy asked, “What is your shoe quota?”  This is in reference to a post where I explain that each child has a limited number of outfits each season to help with laundry, but more importantly to help with clothes storage space.  We simply don’t have enough room in the children’s bedrooms to store unlimited amounts of clothes for each child.

We do have limits on shoes, but that system is a little more complicated than for clothes.  All of the children who run cross country have a set of CC shoes.  In addition, during the winter the boys have one pair of Sunday shoes and one pair tennis shoes.  The girls have the same, but they may also have one pair of going out shoes that are appropriate to wear with a skirt or a dress.  During the summer we add one pair of sandals or quick slip on shoes for each child.

Now, here are a few additional things.  Since our big girls are now 13 and 11, they may choose to have additional outfits or shoes, but they are responsible for storing their clothes neatly and keeping track of all of their things.   We also have a 4 year old who adores shoes.  She has asked for shoes for Christmas and her birthday every year since before she turned 2, so Savannah also gets a few additional pairs of shoes and she also has the responsibility of keeping them picked up.

When Melanie saw the Wordless Wednesday post “Toilet Trouble” she said, “I love the shorts!!!  Who made those?

I made them.  They are actually wool soakers for our cloth diapers.

After reading about my no-shampoo experiment Jennie asked, “Do you (or hubby) notice any smell? No campfire hair?

My husband has a keen sense of smell and as odd as it sounds, that has not been an issue.  The sad thing is that you don’t have that nice scented shampoo smell, but I’ve had no problems with other smells lingering.

Shannon @ Momma’s Balancing it All commented, “I’m curious Kimberly, you say you school year round, how often do you take breaks?”

That is hard to answer, as we are very flexible with our year round schooling.  We don’t have a set schedule of say, working for four weeks and then taking a week off.  We literally school the majority of the time, taking breaks when we feel like it.  Because we use a pre-planned curriculum like Sonlight it is easy to keep track of the number of “official” school days that we complete each year to be certain that we are getting in the required number (never a problem).

While we don’t take a lot of time off of school, our school load does change throughout the year.  During the summer we add more outside work like nature journals and more fun things (art and poetry) that may have gotten dropped during the shorter days of winter.  We also tend to go more lightly on some of the more intense subjects like math (cutting back the number of pages they do each day, not eliminating it altogether) and writing.

It is also common for us to have a week when we only do four days of school.  If it is beautiful outside, I can’t resist telling the children to go outside and play for the day and then I will spend the time cleaning or catching up on things around the house.  We also make an effort to be available to others, either getting together to answer questions, watching children, or just spending time in fellowship.  Depending on how that is scheduled we will either work through some school work or cancel school all together.  And of course we have a lot of company in our home.  When I’m not pregnant we generally have guests in our home 3 or more times each week, so if we have several late nights we may only accomplish half a day of school or perhaps none at all.

When I posted about the cabled booties that I knit, Heather @ It’s Twinsanity wanted to know, “How do you find time to knit? I have more unfinished projects laying around than I can count!

There are several options for me to find time to knit:

  • I  have an hour or two each afternoon when the little children are resting and the bigger kids are reading or otherwise quietly engaged when I have some time to relax, blog, knit, etc.  if everything else is in order.
  • I stay up way too late and get up way too early.  (Last night I went to sleep around midnight and I was up this morning around 4:15.)
  • I neglect the laundry.
  • I find out I’m pregnant, feel terribly sick, have no energy and recline on the couch knitting while the house falls to pieces around my ears.  (I would be on the couch and the house would fall to pieces anyway, so at least by knitting something is being accomplished.)

Also, just because I finish one project doesn’t mean that I don’t have my fair share of unfinished projects laying around.drawing of Savannah I began this drawing of Savannah nearly a year ago.  Nearly a year ago it was at exactly this point.  The problem is that it is supposed to be a drawing of both Sadie and Savannah and I haven’t worked on it for almost a year.  The sad thing is that I have an unfinished drawing of the two big boys that is even older than this one.

I must not have enough laundry to neglect.

Since we make our own buttermilk Jennifer in IL asked, what we do with it.

We use buttermilk in all of our baked goods.  Any recipe that calls for milk we substitute buttermilk unless it is some type of soup or cream sauce, not sure how that would work.

And since you all are too polite to ask, I’ll ask and answer some questions for you.  “Are you caught up on answering questions yet?

No, but I’m getting closer.   Just for the record, most of these questions I have answered via email directly to the person who asked, so that they haven’t had to wait this whole time.

“Are you ever going to finish your promised posts on multi-level homeschooling?

Lord willing, yes.

What is taking you so long?

Currently our homeschool is in a state of change.  This is happening for several reasons, some internal (our oldest child is entering the logic stage and we are working on challenging her with more intense studies, we are investigating some learning difficulties that one of our children is exhibiting and we have hit the stage where our multi-level teaching style needs to be tweaked to include more direct teaching to the younger children) and some external (we have many new products that I am reviewing for The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew that need to be incorporated which is causing our “usually-runs-like-very-flexible-clock-work” system to break down).

We are in the middle of the children’s cross country season.  Which means two extra out of the house commitments each week in addition to daily runs and later than usual nights each Tuesday when the children have races.

Mark has a lot of vacation time to use during the remainder of the year.   So we’ll be tackling some house projects and taking some day trips. 🙂

I’m spending much of my blogging time working on reviews for the Homeschool Crew.

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21 Responses to You Asked: Homeschool Curriculum, Year Round School, and Fitting it All In
  1. Kristin
    September 22, 2009 | 9:52 am

    I had wanted to ask about how you used buttermilk, but had let it fall by the wayside. I will have to revisit that post so that my girls can give it a try.

    I am VERY interested in a post regarding Sonlight. We have the curriculum ourselves, but I have yet to worry about multi-level schooling with it. Our oldest two girls use the same level since they are so close in age and ability.


  2. MomStarr
    September 22, 2009 | 10:31 am

    Hey Kimberly, I want to incorporate more music study in our school for example: composers, instruments, difference between a band and symphony, etc. Can you direct me to some resources? I would also be interested in your plans for the logic stage for the older ones. Matthew needs to be more challenged and I have not taken time yet to investigate how.


    Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi MomStarr – I’m currently reviewing a composer’s study that I LOVE from Bright Ideas Press. I hope to have the review done in a couple of weeks.

    Deb – I do think that Sonlight would fit.

    Mama Mirage – See this post. 🙂

    Cheri – I posted a bit about the simple reading assignments in the early grades here. I also hope to post more about the Language Arts program and how we use it/adapt it.

    Hi Dawn – I posted about cross country here. We are very blessed to have such a great program that is open to homeschoolers!

    Kristin – You are much better at baking than I am, next time we are out of town maybe you will share some of your recipes with all of us! I will share some…eventually. I have it on my to-do list. 🙂

    Celee – We do all our map and time line work together. I posted about what the little ones do during read alouds here and here.

    Amy @ buffaloes and butterfly wings – Your question deserves a whole post since it’s not just a quick answer. Although I will say here that we hope to also include Latin eventually.

    Amy @ in search of normal – You are describing how I envision next year for us. I’m looking forward to seeing how it actually works. If you have any hints please pass them along!


  3. Tristan from the Crew
    September 22, 2009 | 11:44 am

    Hi Kimberly, I would love to hear a post about how Sonlight works and doesn’t work in your family. I have looked at Sonlight, as well as other curriuclum like Winter Promise. We love unit studies and miss them terribly right now (trying something new this year because God said so 😉 ). I also can see the advantages in a busy family to having a lot laid out for you, then tweaking as needed.

    Thanks! Tristan


  4. Vicki
    September 22, 2009 | 1:09 pm

    I would love to know more about how you use sonlight. 🙂 We used it last year and didnt feel it fit into multilevel homeschooling at all. Found MFW though and are loving it.


  5. Deb
    September 22, 2009 | 1:11 pm

    I am VERY interested in hearing more about Sonlight. My son is almost 5 and daughter almost 3. I am pretty set on what I want to do for Math and Phonics/Reading, because at this age I think those are the most important things to fit in with the limited attention spans I am working with. And I also don’t see any reason to get into a really aggressive, workbook heavy curriculum for subjects like History or Social Studies at this age. On the other hand, my kids love to read aloud with me, and I don’t want to neglect those subjects entirely…

    So yes, mark me down as a Please More Sonlight Info vote. Do you think it fits in with what I am going for?



  6. Deb
    September 22, 2009 | 1:13 pm

    Oh – I use a lot of buttermilk too. I have some really good healthy muffin recipes that call for buttermilk if you’d be interested. That’s what I give my kids for breakfast since they are Mysteriously Anti-Cereal.


  7. Shannon
    September 22, 2009 | 1:53 pm

    I would love to hear about how you use Sonlight. We are using The Well Trained Mind and I have already found it to be exhausting to pull together all the resources for one child, can you imagine how I will feel when my youngest gets started?


  8. Mama Mirage
    September 22, 2009 | 2:07 pm

    Uh oh, you’re getting caught up on questions, eh? I’ll have to fix that… 😉
    Were you an adult when you learned to knit?
    Do your kids knit?
    Do your kids ever insinuate that they would prefer public school? If so, what is your way of responding to it?
    Do you have any mother-daughter traditions?
    What do you do for Christmas in your house?


  9. Cheri Little
    September 22, 2009 | 3:27 pm

    Thank you for your willingness to share. I am learning a lot from your site :). I am very new to homeschooling (been doing it 2 weeks) and have other kids in various programs (1 in college who completed public school, 1 in public school high school, 1 in Christian private school 8th grade, my kindergarten child at home schooling and a 3 year old). My young 5 year old son attempted public school k this year and although very ready academically and socially, struggled with the size and misbehaving kids. I prayed about a better way and God convicted me to homeschool. I have taught 2nd grade in public school and have a masters in reading, so I feel confident that I a can teach him, but am overwhelmed by how to structure, how to not neglect the 3 year old, how to gather all materials, etc. I have been using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and Saxon Math, both years old that I used to supplement with my older kids to keep them learning and not get bored while in school. I have also been doing thematic units for science and social studies, but really find that they take a lot of time to prepare for. I have ordered the SONLIGHT 3’s and K programs and would love to know what you have learned from using them and also how to multi-level teach with it since I plan on homeschooling the 3 year old as well as she gets older. I have not received my kits yet, but I am afraid the K LA is going to be too easy, but from what I can tell, the 1st grade level will be too difficult. Have you had this happen and, if so, what did you do to correct it? Sorry this is so long – I really need support at this stage and am waiting to get accepted into our local homeschool group, so I don’t know anyone to call and ask. THANKS!


  10. Dawn
    September 22, 2009 | 5:05 pm

    Do your kids run cross country through a local program? I have a son interested but have not been able to find a team for him. Wondering if you have any suggestions/insight? Thanks


  11. Kristin
    September 22, 2009 | 6:41 pm

    I thought of something later after reading your post….please share some of your baking recipes!


  12. Celee
    September 22, 2009 | 11:13 pm

    We just started using Sonlight and I absolutely love it! We are using the core curriculum and I have loved the read-aloud time. I would love for you to explain more clearly how you use Sonlight in your multi-level homeschooling. Do you have your little ones napping when you do the read-aloud time together? I’m having trouble fitting in the timeline and mapwork. Do you do this with your kids or have them work independently? We’re transitioning from Robinson so I’m spending more time with the kids and am learning how much of Sonlight they can/should do on their own. Thanks.


  13. Amy
    September 23, 2009 | 4:40 pm

    I would love to know why you chose to teach your kids Greek over Latin or another language, and what the practical benefits are. I have a 6 year old and would like to start some kind of language program with him in a year or two.

    Thanks for doing all these ‘answers’ posts – they are great!


  14. Jen L
    September 23, 2009 | 9:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing! I have gleaned much from your posts. I would enjoy hearing more about Sonlight also and the answers to several other questions voiced in the comments here.


  15. Amy
    September 26, 2009 | 4:01 pm

    We also love Sonlight. We are starting our 10th year using it and continue to love it. I would be interested in how you use it for mulitlevels. I also use it, usually 2 different cores at the same time to accomodate both my older and younger kids. That way everyone has thier own readers and then I combine the read alouds and the history to be read aloud between the two cores, so everyone is incorporated. So, I use cores 1 and 6 together, 2 and 7, and then 3 and 4 with 8. So far it works for us, and everyone can’t wait for the reading time! This year my oldest two are taking a separate history and literature class so they aren’t with us, but they are still trying to listen in as much as they can because they still love the books and the time together. And we actually miss them being with us.
    Blessings to you!


  16. […] mentioned in one of my last question and answer posts that our family has successfully used Sonlight Curriculum as a basis for multi-level teaching in […]

  17. […] school year round. We will NOT be doing each of these things everyday.  As a matter of fact some subjects are […]

  18. […] We purchased most of them at and the others at Land’s End.  For more info about both visit this post. […]

  19. […] family just started our seventh year using Sonlight.  I have posted about Sonlight before, how we use it to effectively educate children who are at many different levels and how […]

  20. […] can read more info in this post or this one, but in a nutshell we purchased most of them from […]

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