A Middle Years Curriculum (with Canadian studies focus)

What do I mean by middle years?

I refer to the middle years as the stage between late-elementary and beginning high school. Depending on the kid starting at 12 ending at 14/15. It's a transition stage from the relaxed elementary years to the scholarship focused high school years.

history reading on the couch

Brienne (almost 11) and Laurent (aged 12) are both at the beginning of this stage. Brienne tends to track with her brother's academic level, I basically treat them like they'r in the same "grade" since developmentally they are very close.

The overarching course of study for our "middlers" is a continuation of the late-elementary track I set out last year.

We're trying a few new things this year, based on our learners' needs and growth, and my own interests and inspiration as their primary teacher, facilitator, and mentor.

This post highlights those changes, see last year's post if you want to fill in the gaps.

We'll be following this curriculum - the one laid out below in conjunction with the pieces already in place from last year - until December. Come January we'll be all-hands-on-deck getting ready for the AT.

Design & Art

Fashion Studies

Our youngest has been bitten by the fashion bug. In reality, she's been interested in fashion and beauty for a long time (and all things pink & sparkly). As a little girl that interest was channeled into Barbies and Princesses.

As a growing girl, Brienne is anxious to take that further (can't keep her a little girl forever) and we've been scouring appropriate resources for her.

girl with silver purse

Brienne is frequently downloading fashion related apps but none have really stayed the course as excellent resources. But they sometimes fill the gap till we can find resources that are a better fit. Most apps we've found are too fluffy, essentially mindless consumer-mindset games, or too complex for her stage. We keep looking.

What I need to get her is a large stack of paper fashion magazines. She wants to do some old fashioned scrapbooking of her ideas. Mixing and matching to create new designs. Alas, I have zilch magazines. Help! Time to survey my community.

We use the internet a lot to support this interest, because in case you haven't noticed, I'm not exactly the best mentor for this interest.

Brienne is diving into a fashion project this fall, and the sewing machine is humming. She's using online tutorials to teach her the sewing she needs (you seriously could probably learn any hands-on skill at YouTube.) I am the fabric store chauffeur. I need to arrange a visit and interview maybe with a local fashion designer. Yep, we have one of those!

girl sewing


Laurent continues to draw and draw. And sell his art.

If you're looking for drawing tutorials check out Mark Crilley's YouTube channel. All our kids love his stuff and their skills have jumped significantly under his tutelage. Mark Crilley's voice is often heard in our home throughout the day, when the rock music isn't playing. We just ordered his book Mastering Manga.

Video Production

We'll be producing a video series while hiking next year. We'll be shooting the footage and another family team will be editing and publishing that for us, while we're on the trail.

I'd like to study some basic video and photography principles with the kids this fall in preparation for this. I'll be using this Vimeo page as a starting point.

Health & Wellness


Laurent is pretty serious right now about studying Taekwondo. All the kids take Taekwondo classes together 2 nights a week, but Laurent studies it. And practices it. And emails his Master with questions. And makes a daily schedule that includes time for this study. "Time for my Taekwondo practice", he says.

Laurent uses YouTube videos, site recommendations from his Taekwondo Master, as well as weekly classes for his instruction. His favorite web resources are Taekwonwoo (the free stuff) and Ginger Ninga Trickster.

boy smiling with cards

History, Geography & Cultural Studies

After we moved back to Canada two years ago, I knew I wanted to do a concentrated Canadian history and geography study at some point. That's what we're doing this fall.

Canadian study resources

We continue to learn history through living books and this is my line-up of possible read-alouds for this term:

  • Eljiah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtison,
  • Madeleine Takes Command by Ethel Brill
  • With Wolfe in Canada by J H Henty - This is a public domain book and is free for Kindle from Amazon but also from Project Gutenberg (where I downloaded our copy).
  • Canadian Summer by Hilda Van Stockum
  • Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Another public domain offering, downloaded from Project Gutenberg. This hits close to home for us, as parts of the Baie des Chaleurs, very close to where we live, was settled by Acadian deportees, who escaped through New Brunswick, the deportation across the Atlantic and into the southern United States.
  • Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford - I think we may have read this already but even so, it will be a good audio supplement.
  • Farley Mowat books, a few I'm considering Lost in The Barrens, New Founde Land and Never Cry Wolf
  • The Broken Blade by William Durbin

A few notes about these books selections:

  • I supplied all Amazon.com links because most of my readership is in the US. I purchased my books through Amazon.ca and Abe Books. Kindle editions of books I purchase through Amazon.com since that's where we've purchased our Kindles (because there's more books available for Kindle at Amazon.com than Amazon.ca).
  • We probably won't get around to reading all of these. And a few of these I'll present as audio books, available through our library membership with Free Library of Philadelphia (which is not free to non-residents but is still cheap and has an excellent selection of digital audio and ebook titles). This is simply the list I've curated to draw from.
  • I haven't included books we've already read or eras of history or geography we've already studied, eg. the girls have already read the classic Anne of Green Gables so I haven't included it in this list. Also, having lived in NS for a short time we did a bit of Maritime history while there.
  • I won't be doing too much with "settling the prairies" history as it's quite a similar story in Canada (just with more snow) to The Little House on the Prairie - books we read and re-read when the kids were quite a bit younger.
  • Over the years my kids have all enjoyed A Pioneer Story which is a great Canadian history book about eastern Canadian pioneers complete with historical fiction, non-fiction history, craft and activity ideas. You could do a whole study around this book alone.
  • I'm still looking for some western Canada, railroad building, and/or Klondike historical fiction to round out this selection. If anyone has a recommend, I'd love to hear it.
  • Dear Canada is a diary series of Canadian history. We have a few of those kicking around.
  • If you are looking for Canadian historical fiction I recommend getting a catalogue from The Learning House or Homeschool and More. These Canadian curriculum companies provide a much better list than any American curriculum companies I've come across. I used their catalogues to pull together our own reading list.
  • I received great comments on this post with more resources suggestions. I encourage you to scroll through. This site of book recommendations was particularly worth mentioning

These books serve the purpose of simply inspiring further study and telling bits of Canada's story. They are not the be all, end all of Canadian historical fiction.

In addition to stories, we are using materials from Hands of a Child Canada Project Book available through CurrClick (see more about CurrClick at the bottom of this post).

This pdf is a complete lapbook making resource. I'm not using it for that purpose though. Instead I'm using it as a springboard of Canadian history, and also as a logical presentation of Canadian history that I can draw from to incorporate in my lessons with the kids.

For our Canadian mapwork (my kids enjoy labeling maps) we're using the masters from Canada Project Book and other resources on the web.

Last fall my mother-in-law gave our kids a couple books that we'll use as reference books. The Kids Book of Canadian History and The Kids Book of Canadian Exploration will provide background information and can be read by the kids according to their interests.

I've found if I pull these books out of our small at-home library and leave them on the couch the kids will just pick them up and read them without me having to teach anything at all. This is a strewing strategy.

kids read Canadian history

Another significant resource for our Canadian studies is Canada: A People's History, a video series, originally broadcast on tv, now available on YouTube. These are not appropriate for younger children (Europeans meeting Natives is not always pretty) but are fine for approx. 11 years and older.

As always, if our kids tack a different direction in their interests or learning we will go down that track. These Canadian history resources will be the starting place and the returning place when other interests wane.


The kids just finished the Teaching Textbooks level they were working on and we're now switching to Khan Academy for our math resource.

Reasons I'm using Khan exclusively for math

  • It's completely free. I don't have a lot of homeschool funds to play with these days, every bit I save on resources allows me to buy the other books and supplies my kids need and want for their projects and studies.
  • It's technology dependent. I want my kids to gain confidence in computer based, online programs for learning. Their future education opportunities may involve a great deal of online, distance learning (I'm thinking ahead here to college/university and life in general). I want them to be comfortable with the ever-evolving technology and platforms of online learning.
  • Khan Academy has come along way since I first discovered it years ago. It so much easier now to track your student's progress and design a math program based on what your student already knows and still needs to learn. You design the course of study based on the learner. I love this.
  • Khan doesn't work for little ones (yet) but now that my kids have completed early elementary math (we track a couple years behind grade level in our math) it can be a complete course of math study from arithmetic through to university math.
  • Now that Laurent is a competent reader we don't need a heavy audio-visual math program like Teaching Textbooks.

boy with hat in woods

Outdoors & Adventure

As we're getting ready for the AT next year I am always on the look out for outdoor, backpacking, and survival type teaching videos. Damien and I have read a ton of stuff about this subject but it's always nice when we can find other resources to help teach these principles to our kids.

Again YouTube to the rescue. But we are also accessing backpacking how-to videos (scored that one for free for review), and survival training, and other nature training from online experts and teachers. There is so much out there. You just got to start looking!


He reads. He reads!

This development alone opens up so many more doors in our learning adventures. I knew this day would come. (Ok, trusted this day would come). And now that it has I can both breathe a sigh of relief and pursue a lot more resources that are reading-dependent.

As always, I don't assign my kids reading. For example, history read-alouds aren't assigned, I might suggest to my kids to read something (or strew it about), but they can choose. The things I want them to read I will read myself to them or supply as an audio book.

That being said, my kids will often take me up on book suggestions because I try to choose books they will enjoy. But books and book summaries are not assigned (but I tease out book summaries all the time in different ways).

Reading Horizons

Laurent is still completing Reading Horizons, we go slow with most straight-from-the-box curriculum because we are often interrupted by our other interests.

In the case of Reading Horizons I choose to take it slow and steady instead of pushing it and there were also long breaks when we just let it sit while doing other life stuff. Laurent is on track to finish the basic program later this fall. So, all told, Laurent will have completed the program in a year in a half.

Reading has come slower to Brienne than it did Celine but she doesn't have any "brain wiring" reasons for that. She's just been slower at becoming a competent, independent reader.

American Girl Book Club

This fall I want to try something new with Brienne. CurrClick offers some free online clubs for homeschoolers and I found an American Girl club for Brienne to participate in.

We have all the American Girl books - a gift from another homeschooler years ago who had outgrown them. Brienne likes these stories and this club would give her a chance to meet other homeschoolers and talk about the books. I've never done this before so I have no idea how it works or if she'll like it. The first meeting is at the end of this month.


I don't teach elementary science, you can about that here. But now that the kids are bit older and I have more energy for these things (I have more energy because the kids help more in the home, which translates to me having more time to assist their studies) I want to try a science study this fall in physics.


Why physics? Because it's the science subject that I am least familiar with and therefore the least likely I am to teach in an everyday learning context.

Last fall I purchased a whack of science resources that have sat largely unused. I thought I might pull together something from those.

However, I've decided instead to use an already put together resource from Cynthia Montgomery called Fizzyx for Fun, Exploring Physics through Experiment & Creative Play.

Why this particular resource? Because the author contacted me asking if I'd like a free copy. Free is a price I can afford. Also, this is exactly what I'm looking for, an easy experiment-based introduction to basic physics.

story of science

I hope to round this out a bit, sharing the story and context of Newton, by reading portions of The Story of Science: Newton at the Center. Hoping to actually use some of those science resources I purchased last year!


For writing instruction and practice, I continue to follow (with our own modifications) The Writer's Jungle approach, published by Brave Writer.

This fall I'm going to add Rip The Page as inspiration to our Freewrite sessions.

I'm roughly aiming for one writing project per month per child. Usually how I achieve this is simply by seeing where the kids are already writing and then building on that. Like with reading, I don't "assign" writing. I look to see where inspiration, need or interest is bubbling and teach writing around that.

Grammar Lessons

New to us this season are grammar lessons. Grammar has been nagging me personally for some time. I want to be a better writer but have some grammar "issues", shall we say.

Basically, I can't explain what good grammar is I just know that some sentences sound better than others. And I have basic understanding of verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs. I'd like to do better than this.

I've invited the children to join me on a grammar study. There would have been no point in doing this earlier with Laurent, since he was barely reading with fluency. One thing at a time. But now that the reading foundation is laid, we can build on that.

japanese worksheet
Celine is very interested in learning Japanese right now and spends most her study time engaged in that

Celine is interested in this also, as she would like to improve her writing skills to keep up with all the wordsmithing that goes on in her online world.

We are using Daily Grammar as our main resource. No, we don't do it everyday, and my strategy, as with any lessons, is to keep it short and sweet. I choose this resource because it is inexpensive and thorough. I like that it's a pdf, easily searchable by topic.

How I Use Ready-Made Teaching Resources

You'll notice there are a lot of resources in this list that could be used as lesson material to be plodded through step by step, adhering to the author or designer's way of looking at the subject matter.

If a progression like that works for us I'll follow it. If it doesn't work for us (because the material is boring, we organize or process information differently, or we get sidetracked by rabbit trails and personal interests) I won't follow it as presented.

kicking ball woods

I never feel trapped by a resource, thinking I have to follow it exactly as laid out. A few exceptions to this have been Reading Horizons lessons for Laurent. I don't know how to teach a dyslexic to read so I've followed their program almost to a T (but I don't feel trapped by this sequencing, I appreciate it). I imagine I'll follow the physics resource fairly closely also since I have virtually zero ideas about how to teach physics.

I like to gather a bunch of resources to use, resources to teach myself the knowledge or skills I want to pass onto my kids, and resources I can present to my kids, spreading the table with a feast of options and materials.

I encourage you to use resources similarly. Picking and choosing what's best for the learner, best for you (I refuse to subject myself to boredom and tedium in our homeschool), and best for your family (does this material line up with our family culture and worldview?)

My goal with following a particular resource is not to "get through" or even complete it. We use resources to support our learning, not strangle it. The resource is there to help us, not bind us into a pattern, systems or structures that aren't useful for us.

boy thinking playing cards

Is a resource or material not working for your learners? Here's a few ideas to try in that situation:

  • Use the material to teach yourself and then springboard off that to teach the material to your kids in a way that works better for them.
  • Go slower. Often resources don't work because you're rushing the process. You're so anxious to get "get through the material to check it off your list" that you forget what's really important here - your learners engaging with the material. My preference is slow and steady or short and sweet over "fast and furious, getter done" (I save that approach for housecleaning).
  • Partner with your learner. Collaborate. Partner kids up together so they can help each other. This is especially important with younger children. They will often need you to participate with them.
  • Take a complete break. Try again in a couple weeks or a couple months.
  • Material still not working? Find something else.

girl kicking trail ball in woods


I've seen CurrClick advertised before but I wasn't looking for anything at the time so I didn't give it much thought.

When I started looking for a Canadian study resource I landed at CurrClick and spent some time looking around. It's a pretty amazing site of homeschool resources, many of them free or inexpensive. Most products have a strong Christian worldview that may or may not reflect your family values.

CurrClick has a wealth of pdf teaching materials (lapbooks especially) and live classes.

For a review of CurrClick online classes see Kris Bales review on her blog.

If you want to see all of my curriculum related posts, from through the years, you can find those here.

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  • Claire

    Claire on Sept. 16, 2013, 1:52 p.m.

    Hi Renee, popping in from Victoria BC to recommend a local author and book. The White Jade Tiger by Julie Lawson is a historical time travel young adult book set during the Klondike and the building of the railroad in BC. It also focuses on the use of Chinese labourers and their sacrifices at that time. Not always a pretty picture, but historically accurate and presented in a kid-friendly way. I loved it as a kid!


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 16, 2013, 1:56 p.m.

      Thank you! That's exactly what I'm looking for. I've done California/Chinese history with the kids but not too much Canadian/BC history, covering similar issues. 


    • Kika

      Kika on Sept. 16, 2013, 2:45 p.m.

      To use as a read-aloud, would this novel work for an 8 yr old, do you think?


  • Constance

    Constance on Sept. 16, 2013, 2:07 p.m.

    We have been reading Pierre Berton's "Canada Moves West." Although it is non-fiction, it reads like fiction. The books in the series were originally a series of smaller books. My kids have really enjoyed the sometimes barely believable stories and I've been impressed with how much they've retained! I've been enjoying them too, not having been lucky enough to have heard them when I was learning history/geography when I was a kid! It's like I got the overview and these books give the details.


  • Kika

    Kika on Sept. 16, 2013, 2:43 p.m.

    Ella (8 ys) and I are watching the Canada: A People's History videos together and using Donna Ward's Courage & Conquest workbook alongside it. A close friend watched the videos with her daughter last year (her daughter was also just 8-9) and they highly recommended them. Also, on a fashion related note, Katia has found a fashion illustration course she wants to take this year. It runs through Alberta Distance Learning and we were able to get it free of cost through our local public school's outreach centre. 


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 16, 2013, 3:46 p.m.

      Kika, thanks for sharing your experience with your younger daughter and Canda: A People's History. Some of the scenes in the first video made my 12 year old uncomfortable and so I shared my 11 and older because of that. B. is watching it and is fine with it. I think watching it with your children is the key.

      Also, thanks for the tip on the course. What a great opportunity for Katia. Our kiddos share so much in common!


      • Alaina

        Alaina on Sept. 17, 2013, 3:31 p.m.

        Can I ask what type of scenes it was (eg. violence, modesty, etc?) I am interested in the series down the road...and I would like to know.  I think I read somewhere that there is some "undress" in certain ones.  As long as I knew ahead of time I would just skip or explain etc.  but I have a sensitive child and so often I have to really be careful with real to life history stuff at times...a balance between exposure/talking about it together and waiting for the child to mature more first. 


        • renee

          renee on Sept. 17, 2013, 4:16 p.m.


          It's not just scenes but themes and ideas expressed (some of which goes right over the heads of little ones). Slavery, abduction (I don't remember learning that the Europeans abducted natives and forced them against their will to go to Europe), native rituals - including a torture scene (this was disturbing, not graphically so older children and adults but not so great for little children). Modesty or immodesty in itself does not bother me (this is largely cultural, native women showed more skin than the Puritans). There's definitely been some scenes with flashes of breasts and of course buttocks, but this is not concerning to me.There hasn't been anything sexually inappropriate for children. We've only completed the first video and 1/2 of the second and I won't be able to come back and comment on the whole series. That's the best I can offer (smile).

          For movies in general we like using the Kids in Mind website which rates sex, violence and language on scales of 1-10.


          • Alaina

            Alaina on Sept. 17, 2013, 7:34 p.m.

            Thank you for the honest reply!  That gives me a much better idea.  I can see that this series then would be for much, much later in my family due to what I want the kids exposed to/what they are ready and mature enough for/able to handle.  Thanks for the idea about where to get info on other movie content! 


  • Sarah m

    Sarah m on Sept. 16, 2013, 3:12 p.m.

    I haven't read the post in it's entirety yet, but I did want to comment about Brienne's design study. I used to sell Usborne & Kane Miller books, because I loved them--and still love them-- so much. When I was doing that, there were two really great books that I think she might enjoy (there are more, but I'm just sharing these two first). I actually have a copy of each of these for my own daughter when she's that age, because I knew (also pink, sparkly little girl over here!) she would love them when she had the desire for more. I would have loved these as a kid, too! One is a drawing/doodling/design book called "Drawing, Doodling, Coloring: Fashion" and the other is a historical paperback/sticker book called "Clothes and Fashion" on fashion trends, makes, etc. through the history of fashion! They don't sell Usborne on Amazon, so you'll have to go to Canada's site to find them, but here are the links:

    1) http://www.usborne.com/catalogue/book/1~A~ACCD~6642/drawing-doodling-and-colouring-fashion.aspx 

    2) http://www.usborne.com/catalogue/book/1~H~HBCF~6641/clothes-and-fashion-sticker-book.aspx

    You can also use these two links to see inside pages to the books. Enjoy! I hope you guys find something you can use here. :) 

    Sarah M 


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 16, 2013, 3:43 p.m.

      Thank you! These look exactly like the kids of books B. would like. I did buy her a sewing book that I forgot to mention on this post. Sewing School. Her interest is specifically in fashion, vs. sewing cutsey things so I'm focusing on that area in my resource search.


      • Sarah m

        Sarah m on Sept. 16, 2013, 9:28 p.m.

        I was finally able to sit and read through your list. I love reading homeschooling posts on anything, but especially love the books people share. Since our kids are dual-citizens, at some point they will have to know Canadian and American history. I like the read aloud book list you've compiled and will be able to come back to it when the time comes. 

        I also do "strewing" but never knew it actually had a term! I had found "The New Way Things Work" for my science loving boy in a bargain bin for $1. I didn't know they had a body one, also. I'll have to check it out at the library. The Story of Science sounds like it might be fun to read through next year. I need a story line for science, my kids love listening to stories, and my son loves science....I always have a hard time filling that slot. So far my Usborne stash (and the links that go with the books-youtube videos, and little projects) haven't let me down! 

        Sarah M


        • renee

          renee on Sept. 16, 2013, 9:32 p.m.

          Sarah, I think the story of science might be to told for your younger kids. Parts of it will be too boring for Brienne I think, we'll see. I originally bought the set for Celine last year but I'm glad to have them around to draw on when needed. 


          • Sarah m

            Sarah m on Sept. 16, 2013, 10:54 p.m.

            I saw that the average ages were 9-12 when I looked them up at the library. I knew they'd be too old for us now based on the ages of your children. That's the great thing about just clicking around on all the links. :)  I can check them out at the library just to see them, and also just keep the name/cover in my 'back pocket' for when I go to the homeschool resales, and hopefully get it really cheap (I have had a LOT of luck with doing that and finding great resources) for future use. I have a number of Usborne science titles that we'll get through in the elementary years. I just really need help in the Science deptartment; I usually don't even know where to begin to look for that subject! 

            I just 'wished' for them on my paperbackswap account, so you know... in five years I might get them. Haha. 

            Sarah M



  • Patti

    Patti on Sept. 16, 2013, 4:11 p.m.


    I noticed that you're using The Story of Science by Joy Hakim----we LOVE it! I used the first in the series last year with my son, and we enjoyed it so much we're using the second book this year (Newton at the Center). Although I don't generally use textbooks, I find that this series is written in such a casual style it is in no way "dry". We are also using a lovely series, Keepers of the.....(Earth, Animals, Life, Night). It is an entirely Native American series that focuses on science through story, and also incorporates various activities/experiments, as well. It is for all ages, children to adult, and my 14 year old, Alex, really enjoys it....and so do I. Several years ago we found the science books by John Tiner and we use those every year, too. There are quite a few in the series and each has "bite-size" chapters about various scientists and science concepts that are perfect for my son who enjoys science only to a degree, and prefers it in story format. 

    I'm really curious about Khan Academy----we have been using Teaching Textbooks for several years now and it is the first program that has really helped Alex finally GET math, so I'm a bit reluctant to try anything else. I'll have to check it out----I certainly like the idea of FREE since TT is a bit pricey when funds are limited.

    What a great post---THANK YOU!

    Blessings, Patti


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 16, 2013, 4:36 p.m.

      Thanks so much Patti for these ideas. I love your science suggestions. My kids also would prefer science as story or science as hands-on, so I'm combining the two for their physics study. 


  • Sandi

    Sandi on Sept. 16, 2013, 10:18 p.m.

    So appreciated this post. I am sure it took great energy to create :) I also was led over to your high school post which I plan to re-read later tonight. I have a 13 year old, 10 year old and then a 4 year old. We also take Taekwondo, including me and I live in Canada.

    I find I have drifted from many of our original goals in home education. Partly do to have a very out of the box learner and some health issues. Both of your posts have sparked some new ideas and rekindled old ones. Just wanted to say hello and thank you (though I think I posted once before). I have been reading for quite some time :)


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 16, 2013, 10:29 p.m.

      Yeah, it did take a lot of work. I had a cold on Friday and Saturday and spent much of the time lazing around and the rest of it sitting and writing this post. I didn't actually plan to write or publish it but it just worked out that way. 

      We all change as we go through our homeschool journies and that's ok. I have a high school post coming, this year or next (smile). I'm fully engaged with high school now, having tested the waters last winter/spring. It's so much fun and I really want to share how the high school years are starting to play out after the foundation we built with our young kids - letting them take their time and the focus on joy and inspiration. It's so much fun to be a part of!

      Thanks for reading and saying hi. 


      • Laura

        Laura on Sept. 17, 2013, 11:46 a.m.

        I am looking forward to reading your high school post! I am in the thick of it and will be for awhile. I want to enjoy my last few years with all four together, but don't want to handicap my children by not requiring enough. I told someone this week that since this is our 12th year of homeschooling, I should be a pro. I have learned a few things, but have so much more to learn!


        • renee

          renee on Sept. 27, 2013, 4:52 p.m.

          Laura, my first high school post is live today, and I have two follow-up posts in addition to those:

          Celine's high school curriculum Record keeping and college prep/requirements

          We intend to allow our young adult learners to accept responsibility for their own education, during the high school years, and this includes the deciding what is "required" and what is not. What is required for each of them will be very much dependent on their particular areas of study and interest. 

          There are certain things we definitely require as parents - active, engaged and concentrated study in the area's of our scholar's interests (and with this comes a whole host of scholarship skills and knowledge), participation in family life and activities, and contribution to home life (chores). But none of this seems heavy handed and joy-sucking (either for our students or for us to uphold) but normal and natural for this age. 

          I don't see any of this as handicapping but equipping our scholars for the rigors of both future study and adult life in general where you have to manage your time, eat well, take care of your health etc.

          As for the "what about studying the subjects that will get you into college/university?" That's coming in post number 3.

          Thanks for your comment here and contributing to the conversastion. I don't think we're ever pros since, like you said, we keep learning all the time ourselves. And what works when our kids our 6 isn't true for 16. 


          • Laura

            Laura on Sept. 28, 2013, 3:51 a.m.

            Renee, thank you for all the time and work you are putting into these posts. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on high school that you posted this morning. You have given me food for thought! I look forward to reading the other posts on high school.


  • Nina

    Nina on Sept. 16, 2013, 11:02 p.m.

    Thank you from someone who doesn't homeschool but is always looking for ideas and ways to enhance learning beyond the 'learn how to take a test' curriculum that our public schools and teachers have no choice but to follow. I also do 'strewing' which sometimes works, and other times falls flat.


  • Tiffani

    Tiffani on Sept. 16, 2013, 11:46 p.m.

    Hey Renee'

    Love your post!  If everyone could grasp the "make it fit your family" I think more people would be homeschooling.

    I started using Reading Horizons with my youngest after reading your recommendations.  He's only been using it about 4 weeks.  I'm still a little anxious for it to "click" for him.  He'll be 10 in December.  I'm assuming consistency is key.  Any thoughts?



    • renee

      renee on Sept. 17, 2013, 12:06 a.m.

      Tiffani, I agree. 

      Re: Reading Horizons. It took a while (a couple months at least) for the program to start "working well" for Laurent. And then we'd stop for a time and lose some momentum and have to remember where we were when coming back (smile). During those breaks though he was still reading his usual fare - comic books, graphic novels, etc.

      There was a period, 6- 8 months ago where he found it tedious and asked to do something else for reading practice so I just let him read to me and with me. We continued with that through most of spring and summer. And around that same time his independent reading really exploded.

      Along with that I let him read whatever he wants (within reason of course) including video game play throughs on the web. This is where gamers write about how they've played a game, it's like a story.  

      Laurent started the program when we was 11, I'm not sure what kind of difference that makes.

      I know it took me a while to get over my own hang-ups and reservations about the prescriptive manner of the program. I e-mailed Josh often to ask for help or sometimes express frustration or confusionwi with some aspect of the program and I was always helped in those regards. (which is one reason I recommend it so much).

      I had to get over my incessant (to myself) questioning, "why do they do it that way?" etc.  and just go along (smile). I've never followed any program in its entirety so I had some growing up to do in that regard with trusting the program. 

      I think consistency is important but I also believe in breaks and letting the learner decide. At 11, Laurent was very frustrated with his reading struggles and he used that frustration to push through the hard parts. It was his learning, not mine. I didn't even get serious about his reading (2 yrs ago) till he grew frustrated enough to want to do something about it - get help and apply himself to the difficult task of learning to read (which was hard to swallow since his sisters don't have the same difficulty). Consistency - yes, and freedom to make choices as a learner. 

      Give it time (smile) - the program, your son, etc


      • Tiffani

        Tiffani on Sept. 19, 2013, 1:36 a.m.

        Thank you Renee!  I think I needed a little nudge from someone who's "been there done that" to say "keep going, you're doing fine" :)

        I need to find more material for him to read.  I hadn't thought about video game magazines.  He LOVES minecraft. I'll see what I can find.

        Thanks again!!


  • Susan MOELLER

    Susan MOELLER on Sept. 17, 2013, 3:04 a.m.

    Hi Renee! Loved this post. We read Klondike gold a long time ago and loved it! it is an old book, and you can tell in some of the vocab and ideas about native people, but the story is amazing.



  • marie

    marie on Sept. 17, 2013, 8:18 a.m.

    regarding B's interest in fashion - a lot of what I hear in the design school at the grad level is the need to get the practice time in to develop an authentic voice. Formalities aside (color theory! proportions!), having a good sense of how ideas translate to reality is invaluable. It can take some trial and error to fully understand how ideas that are great in imagination are not so terrific when executed (e.g. does that sleeve that looks so cute allow for full range of motion? what are the implications of a low-cut top? even when taller people are around?). Practically, this might mean making lots of doll clothes, or outfits for willing guinea pigs (i.e. halloween costumes - if you celebrate - or alterations for family friends) . If B's still interested after a few novice pieces, investment in a dressmakers form would be invaluable - they can often be purchased used.


  • marie

    marie on Sept. 17, 2013, 8:25 a.m.

    one more thing - I loved "The Way Things Work" as an illustrated intro to practical physics. It's by Neil Ardley, illustrated by David Macaulay.


  • Alaina

    Alaina on Sept. 17, 2013, 3:26 p.m.

    Wow, this is quite the post.  I have just skimmed it for now, as I don't have enough time, but I will come back in detail later.  Thank you for posting this!  

    I don't think I saw this mentioned and thought I would pass it on, I found it when doing a search online for my oldest on history books. http://www.freewebs.com/canadianhomeschool/nicolas%20%20list%20draft%20sept%2023%202006.htm  it is a list of "living books" for history in order of when it happened.  I have not read them all (only a few) so I cannot comment if they are all appropriate but I did find it neat to see them all on there.  I have had similar success googling "living books __" (fill in the blank with whatever subject eg. history, geography, etc and then coming up with a list for homeschooling.  I then get most of them through interlibrary loan (across the province).


    • Alaina

      Alaina on Sept. 17, 2013, 3:28 p.m.

      Oh and I also wanted to say, that when I see books mentioned online, I often go to Amazon or similar where they have reviews to check those and see what people say about it, it at least gives me some idea before getting it into the house.  




    • renee

      renee on Sept. 17, 2013, 4:24 p.m.

      Thank you for this link. This is fabulous. I think I need to edit the post to add this link. 

      I did a lot of research for Cdn books but didn't come across this page. You are lucky to have English interlibrary loan service (smile). Because we have such poor English library service (that costs money in addition to offering scant resources and super long delays) I don't stray too far from well recommended or known books because I have to buy quite a few and don't want to buy duds. 

      For living books in general to teach history and geography I really like the book All Through the Ages.


      • Alaina

        Alaina on Sept. 17, 2013, 7:45 p.m.

        Glad you liked the link and I am so happy you edited the post so that others can see it too!  I was so thrilled when I came across it myself!

        Yes I am so thankful for interlibrary loan service!!!

        One thing I came across this year when I realized I wanted to own (instead of just borrow for a few weeks) the book "Pioneer Story" that you mentioned is that apparently, some places only sell "Pioneer Sampler" which is basically the same, only all Canadian words/references etc are removed!  Otherwise it is the same family and story. I came across one article that said it has been changed, and it looks like the Canadian version might be out of print...so, anyways, just a heads up that the book "Pioneer Sampler" is basically the same as "Pioneer Story" so if someone is looking for it new, it looks like maybe you have to buy the "Pioneer Sampler" version instead.  I bought my "Pioneer Story" second hand.  There are others in the series too- "Pioneer Christmas" and "Pioneer Thanksgiving". 


         I also am enjoying "Pioneer Crafts" by Kids Can Press (also bought used).  Simple crafts from things I mostly have around my house.



  • Melissa R

    Melissa R on Sept. 18, 2013, 7:54 p.m.

    While in Victoria we saw a wonderful Canadian IMAX movie that I highly recommend if you can find somewhere to see it.  It's called Rocky Mountain Express.  


  • Robin

    Robin on Sept. 21, 2013, 3:55 p.m.

    I love your Canadian resources.  We are in the states, so can't utilize them, though.

    Would you have any ideas for upper level U.S. History?  I have a high schooler and the textbook we have is looking less appealing than it did before.  Not to mention, it's HUGE.

    I've looked at other collections of resources (Ambleside online, Simply Charlotte Mason, etc) but they do history in a spread out chronological fashion and that's not how we handle it.  For high school, we have found it works best for us to compartmentalize the history a bit (World, U.S., etc.) for each year.

    Suggestions would be appreciated!



    • renee

      renee on Sept. 21, 2013, 4:07 p.m.

      Robin, I have no plans for teaching upper level US history so I don't have any resources to recommend except my go-to book for history living books in general which is All Through the Ages by Christine Miller. Which may or may not serve your purposes. 


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